Bug Hunters Earn Big Bucks From Apple

Bug Hunters Earn Big Bucks From Apple

NEW DELHI— Two Indian “bug hunters” have discovered bugs in Apple’s programs this month, earning big payouts from the tech giant.

Narendra Bhati, an assistant manager in a technology firm in the western city of Pune, received $16,000 on Aug. 6, and Armaan Pathan, an aviation industry executive, netted $6,000 on Aug. 16.

Multinational tech giants such as Apple are rewarding ethical hackers to find flaws that make their programs misbehave. Bug hunting has become a buzzword in cybersecurity, and various bug bounty platforms such as HackerOne and Bugcrowd work as links between businesses and cybersecurity researchers.

The Apple Security Bounty program launched last year pays up to $1.5 million — the highest in the world. Bhati is the second Indian to receive payment from that program.

“It’s like playing a game for me,” he told Zenger News. “It lets me contribute to cybersecurity.”

He said that he has submitted several other bugs to Apple which are being examined.

Bhati said that he has also discovered bugs for Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon. He has been hunting bugs since 2013 after completing an ethical hacking course from a private institute.

A native of the western state of Gujarat, Pathan has been a part-time bug hunter since 2015. He said he has earned $350,000 by discovering bugs for Facebook, Amazon and Google. Pathan was, in fact, trained by Bhati. A winner in the Singapore government’s bug bounty competition, Pathan was also invited to Facebook Hacker Cup competitions in Miami and Singapore.

Bhati and Pathan represent the growing trend of bug hunting for tech giants among youth in India. It is a booming business globally. HackerOne helped remove 123,000 security vulnerabilities in more than 1,400 customer programs in 2019, earning $62 million for hackers from 150 countries, according to a HackerOne report.

So far this year, HackerOne reports that 170,000 vulnerabilities have been uncovered, earning hackers a record-breaking (for HackerOne) $100 million.

Indian hackers earned $4.9 million through HackerOne in 2019, coming in second only to their U.S. peers. In the past four years, India has emerged as a major player in the segment.

“As a result of their creativity and tenacity, we predict that hackers will have earned $1 billion in bug bounties within five years, protecting companies and governments alike from persistent and ephemeral threats,” CEO Marten Mickos wrote on HackerOne’s website.

HackerOne allows participants to make submissions in Hindi, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil.

The number of ethical hackers from India has increased 83 percent since last year, according to a recent Bugcrowd report. The country is also among the top locales for “cash from hacking,” earning 34 percent of bounty payments around the world.

“This has also helped India anchor its position in the field of cybercrime security research,” the report states.

The report also states that about 54 percent of all hackers surveyed were 24 years old or younger, and 41 percent had entered the bug hunting arena in the past 12 months. Thirteen percent were described as having attention-deficit hyperactive disorder or autism.

One of the first Indians to earn big money from the bug bounty was security researcher Bhavuk Jain. An independent bounty hunter, Jain cracked a bug in Apple last May and took home $100,000.

“A lot of websites and mobiles have a sign-in feature with Google or Facebook,” he said. “Apple had also launched a ‘Sign up for Apple’ feature. I found an issue with the API (application programming interface). Within four hours I knew I could hack into a person’s account on any website or mobile app simply through his e-mail ID.

 

“I have earned about $120,000 during the pandemic,” said Jain. “I am not looking for a job.”

Bug bounty hunters prevented losses to the tune of $8.9 billion last year, according to the Bugcrowd report. Ethical hackers are forecast to prevent cybercrime of more than $55 billion by 2025, the report states.

Multinational companies are investing more and more into this as dependence on digital operations grows.

The work for bug hunters, however,  is difficult and time-consuming, and training is still not well organized. It took Pathan two years to crack the Apple bug.

“Apple is the most difficult security to crack,” said Bhati.

Vishal Panchani, 25, a hacker from Surat, Gujarat, who was ranked No. 9  on the all-time leader board of HackerOne, has already earned $400,000 from bug bounty.

While noting that many young people are lured by the big money opportunities, Panchani said, “they should understand bug bounty hunting is all about passion and dedication.”

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Judy Isacoff.)



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Starting at a Black Newspaper, Dana White Is the First Black Woman to Run Comms at a Major Automaker

Starting at a Black Newspaper, Dana White Is the First Black Woman to Run Comms at a Major Automaker

As Hyundai North America’s first chief communications officer, Dana W. White knows what it is like to have two feet in two worlds.

“Growing up I always knew about the power of communication, the power of words,” she said, talking about her childhood in Charlottesville, Virginia. “My grandfather, who was born in 1896, founded the oldest black newspaper in the state. I used to cut ad sheets every month and write copy and process black-and-white photos [at the paper]. The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in me and my family.”

While the weekly black newspaper, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Tribune, is gone, the family’s entrepreneurial spirit lives on. “The environment I grew up in, my family, was that there was never just a pot of gold waiting for me at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “It’s in my DNA – to make it happen for yourself.”

Dr. Ben Chavis runs the trade group for African American newspaper publishers. “The National Newspapers Publishers Association salutes Hyundai for its decision to elevate an African-American woman leader to the position of Chief Communications Officer. In this year where the focus is on the empowerment of all women, Dana White represents and embodies the best of Black America,” he told Zenger News of White.

Dana White is no relation to the Ultimate Fighting Championship president with the same name.

Dana White poses for a photo outside Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, Cali. on August 7, 2020. (Carol Larsen/Zenger)

 

 

She studied hard in college, taking the toughest courses on purpose even if they were scheduled early in the morning and required long walks across Chicago wind-chilled campus. Those courses included learning to read, write and speak Mandarin, the mostly widely used of the Chinese-language dialects. She majored in Chinese history at the University of Chicago.

White thought hard about her choices in what to study; she didn’t just take the most popular courses or the easiest ones to earn a top grade. Of course, she said there are “easy” courses at the University of Chicago, which competes with the Ivy League for students. “At the time, nobody was thinking about China,” she said. “Everyone was terrified that Japan was taking over the world, but no one was thinking about this country of one billion people that was just sitting there, very quiet. I wanted to make sure I’d be employable for the next 50 years, find something that was valuable for the future. So, I decided to study Mandarin.”

She applied for scholarships to study in China’s capital, Beijing, and later in South Korea’s capital, Seoul. This on-the-ground experience would later prove pivotal in her career.

“I think it’s fascinating, working as a Black American within different cultures. In fact, sometimes I think it’s an advantage as I experience my home culture differently and therefore I think I’m much more observant and intrigued by people, their language and traditions. It’s helpful in translating best practices and communications,” she said. “Communication isn’t just about the literal words themselves, it’s about the feeling, impressions and the image you convey or defy.”

After college, she moved to Washington, DC without a job and worked as an intern and a temp to pay the bills while she applied for jobs on Capitol Hill.

The Republican committee for all GOP lawmakers, then chaired by Rep. J.C. Watts, the only Black Republican serving in Congress, was the first to call her back. She went on to take a series of jobs in government and in media, often working as the only black woman in the room. She accepted a job as deputy press secretary for the House Republican Conference, where she worked for two years until 2000.

 

Dana White briefs the press at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. in an undated photograph. (Sgt. Amber Smith/DOD)

 

Dana W. White, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), poses for her official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Dec 21, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King)

Then, she joined the public-relations team at Fox News between 2000 and 2001. Later, she went on to the Heritage Foundation, a think tank on Capitol Hill that is influential among Republicans. “I was director of the Heritage Foundation’s roundtable for Asia-Pacific journalists which was comprised of foreign correspondents from outlets such as The Nikkei and Asahi Shimbun and Chosun Ilbo.” she recalled. “I was overseeing some 400 different journalists from across Asia.” Her study in Chinese language and Asian culture had made her stand out. Her careful preparation was paying off in unexpected ways. “At Heritage, I met some wonderful reporters from Taiwan, Japan and Korea. It was so beneficial when I did my first stint at the Pentagon on the China Desk, then at Nissan and now Hyundai.”

Her studies and experience soon took her back to the federal government. President George W. Bush named her Taiwan Country Director at the Defense Department.

She returned to the private sector as an editor in the arts and culture section of The Wall Street Journal, the nation’s most widely read newspaper and based in Hong Kong.

Next, she was tapped as director of policy and strategic communications for the Renault–Nissan Alliance, a joint venture of the French and Japanese auto makers. They needed someone who understood both media and Asia – and she was one of the few that fit the bill. She soon became fluent in French and worked from Renault’s Paris headquarters. Still, she never forgot her roots, often phoning her mother, who was born during racial segregation, and then living in northern Virginia’s ever spreading suburbs.

She returned from Paris in 2015 and started her own public relations firm 1055 Grady, named in honor of her grandfather’s address in Charlottesville, where she was first inspired to be an entrepreneur. Back in Washington, DC, she was tapped by the Trump campaign to help with their strategic communications. Shortly after Donald J. Trump was sworn in, she was asked about taking a high profile spot back at the Pentagon. Her earlier stint at the Defense Department along with her knowledge and contacts in U.S. and foreign media perfectly positioned her to take the top spot as head of public affairs for the Defense Department. She was sworn in as Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Chief Pentagon Spokesperson on April 7, 2017.

It was also the same day the U.S. sent cruise missiles to strike Syria in response to its chemical-weapons attacks. Nearly one year to the day, she would go before the world to brief the U.S. strikes on Syria in response to a another chemical attack. She became the first black person to hold that prestigious post.

She reported directly to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis. When he resigned in 2018, she followed the same day. “I left DoD alongside Mattis because I believe in his integrity,” she said.

Mattis differed with President Trump on matters ranging from pulling troops out of Syria and Afghanistan to withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Now Dana White runs North American communications for Hyundai Motor Company, a South Korean car maker that builds more than half of its vehicles at its plant in Alabama and employs some 25,000 people in the United States. She joined the Zenger News Advisory Board in 2019.

White sees herself as a cross-cultural bridge.  At Hyundai Motor North America, she is the Chief Communications Officer—a first for Korean automaker in the U.S. She oversees communications for Hyundai Motor North America headquarters and all of Hyundai’s North America Affiliates including Canada and Mexico, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Glovis (Hyundai’s Logistics Operations), Mobis (Hyundai Parts Operations), Hyundai Capital and the Washington, DC Office. White also has strategic oversight of Hyundai’s luxury automotive brand Genesis, which will debut the GV80—the first SUV of the luxury brand.

Dana White poses for a photo inside Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, California on August 7, 2020. (Carol Larsen/Zenger)

 

Dana White poses for a photo outside Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, California on August 7, 2020. (Carol Larsen/Zenger)

“When I joined Hyundai a year ago, I knew I needed someone who understood decision making at the highest levels, storytelling and how to work across cultures seamlessly to deliver results. So, I called Dana,” said Jose Munoz, Global COO of Hyundai Motor Company and Pres. & CEO of Hyundai Motor North America. “It’s rare to find one person with all the skills, talents and experiences that she has. And she has proven track record of success. In few short months, Dana has already made a big difference in how we operate, communicate and tell the Hyundai story.”

Ultimately for White, she said her passions are education, excellence and empowerment. “I can still hear my grandfather’s gruff voice saying, ‘Mouse, I want you to be a smart little girl. Learn everything you can.’ I think about everything he survived, all the limits placed on his life and how if he could see me now—a man who proud to put pictures of my nursery school graduation in the paper—I know he’d say…’So, Mouse…what’s next?’”

Her father, Sherman R. White, graduated from Charlottesville’s segregated schools was also plaintiff in the desegregation of Charlottesville schools.  He attended Howard University at 16 years-old and later pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha.  There, he met her and married her mother Agnes Cross from Philadelphia, PA.  Her father was an AME minister and her mother one the first blacks to secure a civil service job in the state of Pennsylvania.

Her cousin Cheryl was the President of the local Williamsburg chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. In high school, Dana was awarded a merit scholarship from the University of Virginia Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. And her older brother is a graduate of Hampton University

“The thing about me is that I’m propelled by history and obsessed with the future. I’m passionate about ideas and a mission. I want to see people move forward—know their past and explore their future,” she said. “It’s in my family—this spirit of perseverance. I feel like they handed me a baton. They all ran hard and ran fast and carried the baton as far as they could go. Now, it’s my responsibility to take that baton and run farther and faster and pass the baton to the next generation. I say, ‘When you stand on the shoulders of slaves, don’t slouch!’”

(Edited by Robert George and Richard Miniter.)



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Indian Restaurants Cook Up DIY Food Kits

Indian Restaurants Cook Up DIY Food Kits

Indians — especially from big cities like New Delhi or Mumbai — love eating out. But with a nationwide lockdown still in place in many sectors, it is not an option. Even home deliveries aren’t viable. Delivery agents have caused panic and mandatory quarantine.

So some restaurants have whipped up a delicious alternative.

To keep their patrons happy — and businesses running — restaurants are now sending food, not as fully cooked meals, but Do It Yourself, or DIY kits. The kits have detailed instructions and perfectly proportioned ingredients.

 

Food lovers just follow directions and have the meal they desire.

“At first I thought it was weird — why slog in the kitchen when you can order in?” said Nausheen Tareen, 35, a New Delhi-based public relations professional. Tareen and her husband, Amin Ali, ate out at least two or three times a week before the pandemic, patronizing both fine dining in Delhi and traditional small eateries in the capital’s historic Walled City.

“When you do it, you see it is so much fun!” said Tareen, now a convert to DIY meals. She is the rule rather than the exception among young, urban Indians. They are the mainstay of the country’s vibrant culinary culture.

The lockdown began March 24 and hit the restaurant business hard.

In 2019, India had about 2 million restaurants employing 7.3 million people, according to the National Restaurants Association of India’s Food Services Report. They generated revenues of $56 billion. But since the pandemic began, many restaurants in places such as New Delhi’s Khan Market — one of the most expensive real-estate locations in the world — have closed.

“With restaurants shut for more than five months, the sector has lost about $25 billion,” said Anurag Katriar, president of the association. “About 3 million people have lost their jobs.”

The CEO and executive director of private restaurant chain deGustibus Hospitality, Katriar said 30 percent to 35 percent of restaurants will never open again.

“Half of a restaurant’s expenses are overheads — rent, wages, taxes,” he said. “How can you earn nothing and keep paying these?”

People staying away from restaurants are not ordering in, either, Katriar said. “We are getting only a third of the orders we used to get.”

Food-delivery industry leader Zomato painted a similar picture in its State of Indian Restaurant Industry report. Some 10% of India’s restaurants have permanently shut, and another 30% may never reopen.

Tough times have forced businesses to innovate — the DIY kits are one example.

Kampai, which serves Japanese cuisine, is one of the restaurants in New Delhi that has offered the DIY kit to its patrons since June. On the menu: ramen, donburis, cocktail kits.

“The response has been good,” said Avantika Sinha, founder, and managing director.

The quarantine has seriously impacted the industry, but it’s also provided inspiration.

“The popularity of #quarantinecooking inspired us,” said Priyank Sukhija, MD and CEO of First Fiddle F&B, a private restaurant chain. The hashtag went viral on social media, with people posting pictures of what they were cooking while stuck at home.

Sukhija started the DIY kits at his Asian restaurant, Plum by Bent Chair, in July. “The concept was long overdue,” he said. “It is here to stay. Our kits are a careful selection of bowls, pots, gravies, entrees along with gyozas that can be easily cooked and enjoyed at home,” said Sukhija.

Such kits were already popular in New York and London pre-pandemmic — but new to India. And while they generate sales, restaurants are curating only the best options on their menus.

Restaurant owners in Delhi are also looking to the government for help.

“In the UK, the government is subsidizing eating out,” said Katriar. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme gives a 50% discount to anyone eating or drinking at a UK restaurant from Monday to Wednesday, up to a maximum bill of £10, about $13.

“This scheme will have a positive effect on other sectors, such as labor, agriculture, dairy and transport,” said Katriar.

In Delhi, restaurants have been allowed to operate at half the capacity since last month. But they claim an added financial struggle: No green light to serve liquor. Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on August 20 asked the excise department to allow restaurants to serve liquor at tables, though bars will remain closed.

“This will be a great help to the industry,” said Zorawar Kalra, founder, Massive Restaurants, which owns popular eateries such as Bo-Tai and Made in Punjab.

“Sales are at 10% to 15% of pre-Covid levels now. Allowing liquor to be served will attract more eaters. Dinner revenue will increase,” he said.

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Fern Siegel.)



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India’s Small Pharmacies Face Off with Amazon, Reliance

India’s Small Pharmacies Face Off with Amazon, Reliance

KOLKATA, IndiaAmazon launched its first e-pharmacy in India, on Aug. 14, entering into direct competition with the country’s largest conglomerate, Reliance Industries Ltd.

Reliance recently acquired a 60 percent stake in Vitalic, the parent firm of Netmeds, a major Indian e-pharmacy, for $83 million.

But fight isn’t just between the two giants. India’s formidable segment of small retailers is gearing up to fend off the digital advances of Amazon and Reliance.

The Indian pharmaceutical market is expected to reach $55 billion this year, according to estimates from research and consulting firm Frost and Sullivan in a report in January 2019. The sector is expected to grow to $100 billion by 2025, according to another recent report. Currently, it supplies about half of all vaccines around the world and 40 percent of generic drugs in the U.S.

Jeff Bezos-led Amazon, which has invested about $6.5 billion in India in micro to large businesses, has big plans for the country, one of the world’s fastest growing economies despite the recent slowdown. Reliance, led by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, is valued at $150 billion.

While the two giants face off, India’s 850,000 medicine resellers, including retail chemists and pharmaceutical distributors, have also swung into action, taking steps to fight the global firms’ entry into the digital pharmacy space.

The All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists, which has been fighting e-pharmacies for several years, in letters to Bezos and Amazon India CEO Amit Agarwal on Aug. 14., termed e-pharmacies “illegal” in India.

“We also have a full dossier ready on this subject,” said the letter sent to Bezos and Agarwal. “Entering this space can bring on legal implications which can bring disrepute to Amazon’s name. It is very disheartening to see that a company of Reliance Industries’ stature has invested in an industry which is still illegal and not recognized under the Drug and Cosmetics Act.”

Amazon did not respond to inquiries by Zenger News. Reliance declined to comment.

There are no laws covering e-pharmacies in India. In 2018, the government proposed draft rules for e-pharmacies. After this, various petitions were filed in different courts in India to ban e-pharmacies. The Drug Controller General of India then instructed all the state regulators to ban online drug sales operating without a license. However, the e-pharmacies claimed they serve customers only through licensed pharmacies and are thus operate under existing laws.

In addition to war between the big names, there is also a struggle between online and offline retailers—both big and small.

The offline pharmacists have also raised the issue of the legality of selling medicines without a hard copy of prescriptions, although this norm was tweaked in recent months because of Covid-19, allowing doorstep delivery of medicines.

“The regulatory gray areas in the online pharmacy market will ease out once the draft rules become the norm,” said Sunil Jain, managing partner of Sprout Capital, a private financial adviser. “In India, four firms — Netmeds, 1mg, Medplus and PharmEasy — account for a major market share in the segment. The entry of Amazon and Reliance will definitely impact the market, but the sector itself is poised to grow.

“There is no tipping point in the sector,” said Jain, adding that the corporate giants are “consolidating the global online pharma business.”

At the heart of this competition in the e-pharmacy market sector is the ever-growing demand for pills in India. This is driven by factors such as increasing lifestyle diseases, population, improved health infrastructure and medication misuse.

“Medication misuse in India is a major public health issue,” said the Journal of Public Health in 2015. “In India, it has been estimated that 50 percent of family spending on healthcare is on unnecessary medications or investigations.”

In the past five to six years, India’s booming startup culture gave rise to e-pharmacies.

“The e-pharmacy market in India is estimated at around $512 million in 2018 and estimated to grow at [a rate of] 63 percent to reach $3.6 billion by 2022,” said the Frost and Sullivan report.

Steep discounts by online pharmacies have been one of the biggest drivers of their growth in India.

“E-pharmacies are offering 25-30 percent discount directly to customers,” said Sankha Roy Choudhury, joint secretary of the Chemists and Druggists Organization. “The basic margin of any retailer varies from 16-20 percent. How will we survive?”

The government’s decision to allow doorstep delivery has made matters more urgent for these pharmacists.

Before Covid-19 hit, 3.5 million Indian households used e-pharmacies, according to a white paper from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. During lockdown in May, 9 million households used online medicine services.

“The white paper seems to suggest that the e-pharmacies played a very important role during the lockdown,” the All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists said in response. “We wish to tell you that especially in lockdown 1 (the first phase), which was the strictest with minimum exceptions allowed, no e-commerce company was able to deliver anything.”

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Judy Isacoff.)



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Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

The developer of hugely popular video game Fortnite dared Apple and Google to ban the game from their app stores.

The tech giants did. Epic Games’ next move: File antitrust lawsuits.

At its core, the fight is over how users pay for things hosted through the major platforms. Epic introduced a way for players to purchase virtual currency directly and more cheaply, skirting the tech companies’ payment systems. Apple and Google then yanked Fortnight, which is free but allows players to make in-app purchases, from their platforms. Both companies collect a 30% commission from in-app revenue purchases in games and said Epic’s direct payment system violated their developer guidelines.

“It’s potentially a very big case. For Apple, having this App Store model has been a huge source of revenue,” said Sandeep Vaheesan, the legal director at Open Markets Institute. “A lot of money is at stake.”

Vaheesan doesn’t expect a result in either case for years because of the complexity of antitrust cases.

Epic Games seemed ready for the Aug. 13 bans, filing the lawsuits the same day and launching a #FreeFortnite social media campaign.

The developer alleged Apple is unlawfully operating a monopoly because the iPhone maker does not allow third-party app stores on its platform.

“Apple completely bans innovation in a central part of this ecosystem, namely, any app that could compete with Apple for the distribution of apps in iOS. Through its control over iOS and through a variety of unlawful contractual restrictions that it forces app developers to accept, Apple prevents iOS users from downloading any apps from any source other than Apple’s own storefront, the App Store,” the complaint against Apple said.

Epic Games became a multibillion-dollar company, in part, because of the opportunities Apple made available to it, lawyers for Apple said in court documents filed Friday.

“When Epic willfully and knowingly breached its agreements by secretly installing a ‘hotfix’ into its app to bypass Apple’s payment system and App Review Process, it knew full well what would happen and, in so doing, has knowingly and purposefully created the harm to game players and developers it now asks the Court to step in and remedy,” Apple’s lawyers said. “Relief under these circumstances is not available under the law.”

Epic Games made similar allegations against Google.

“Google has eliminated competition in the distribution of Android apps using myriad contractual and technical barriers. Google’s actions force app developers and consumers into Google’s own monopolized ‘app store’ — The Google Play Store,” the lawsuit said. “Google uses this monopoly power to impose a tax that siphons monopoly profits for itself every time an app developer transacts with a consumer for the sale of an app or in-app digital content.”

The game is still available on Android but users are not able to download it via the Google Play Store because it violates the company’s policies, according to Google spokesman Dan Jackson.

“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users,” Jackson said in a statement. “We welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”

The hugely popular Fortnite has as many as 350 million registered users, according to consumer and business insights firm Statista. Players can team up to save the world or battle as many as 99 other users in a battle royale, or create their own worlds and batttlegrounds via the game’s create mode. Its characters’ dances have become a cultural phenomenon, with children and celebrities alike adopting the steps in videos on social media and during professional sports games. Players use in-game currency, known as V-Bucks, to buy in-game items, character customizations or a “Battle Pass” that includes an array of in-game items and content.

Epic Games is not requesting monetary compensation from either company, according to the lawsuits. Instead, it’s asked for injunctive relief against the alleged anticompetitive practices.

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



The post Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish appeared first on Zenger News.

Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

The developer of hugely popular video game Fortnite dared Apple and Google to ban the game from their app stores.

The tech giants did. Epic Games’ next move: File antitrust lawsuits.

At its core, the fight is over how users pay for things hosted through the major platforms. Epic introduced a way for players to purchase virtual currency directly and more cheaply, skirting the tech companies’ payment systems. Apple and Google then yanked Fortnight, which is free but allows players to make in-app purchases, from their platforms. Both companies collect a 30% commission from in-app revenue purchases in games and said Epic’s direct payment system violated their developer guidelines.

“It’s potentially a very big case. For Apple, having this App Store model has been a huge source of revenue,” said Sandeep Vaheesan, the legal director at Open Markets Institute. “A lot of money is at stake.”

Vaheesan doesn’t expect a result in either case for years because of the complexity of antitrust cases.

Epic Games seemed ready for the Aug. 13 bans, filing the lawsuits the same day and launching a #FreeFortnite social media campaign.

The developer alleged Apple is unlawfully operating a monopoly because the iPhone maker does not allow third-party app stores on its platform.

“Apple completely bans innovation in a central part of this ecosystem, namely, any app that could compete with Apple for the distribution of apps in iOS. Through its control over iOS and through a variety of unlawful contractual restrictions that it forces app developers to accept, Apple prevents iOS users from downloading any apps from any source other than Apple’s own storefront, the App Store,” the complaint against Apple said.

Epic Games became a multibillion-dollar company, in part, because of the opportunities Apple made available to it, lawyers for Apple said in court documents filed Friday.

“When Epic willfully and knowingly breached its agreements by secretly installing a ‘hotfix’ into its app to bypass Apple’s payment system and App Review Process, it knew full well what would happen and, in so doing, has knowingly and purposefully created the harm to game players and developers it now asks the Court to step in and remedy,” Apple’s lawyers said. “Relief under these circumstances is not available under the law.”

Epic Games made similar allegations against Google.

“Google has eliminated competition in the distribution of Android apps using myriad contractual and technical barriers. Google’s actions force app developers and consumers into Google’s own monopolized ‘app store’ — The Google Play Store,” the lawsuit said. “Google uses this monopoly power to impose a tax that siphons monopoly profits for itself every time an app developer transacts with a consumer for the sale of an app or in-app digital content.”

The game is still available on Android but users are not able to download it via the Google Play Store because it violates the company’s policies, according to Google spokesman Dan Jackson.

“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users,” Jackson said in a statement. “We welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”

The hugely popular Fortnite has as many as 350 million registered users, according to consumer and business insights firm Statista. Players can team up to save the world or battle as many as 99 other users in a battle royale, or create their own worlds and batttlegrounds via the game’s create mode. Its characters’ dances have become a cultural phenomenon, with children and celebrities alike adopting the steps in videos on social media and during professional sports games. Players use in-game currency, known as V-Bucks, to buy in-game items, character customizations or a “Battle Pass” that includes an array of in-game items and content.

Epic Games is not requesting monetary compensation from either company, according to the lawsuits. Instead, it’s asked for injunctive relief against the alleged anticompetitive practices.

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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