Tech Firms Rethink, Retool, Rise to the Challenge

ORLANDO, Fla. — At 43, Danielle Stiles finally stepped through a door of opportunity.

A bartender and server for more than 20 years, she decided to pursue a life-long dream to learn about computers and go back to school to obtain a job in infomation technology.

“I’m going to learn how to build a computer from the ground up, how to take a computer apart, how to troubleshoot it,” Stiles said. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but I never had the gumption.”

After all, her decades of work in the restaurant business — from sports bars to International Drive-area mainstays — were often fruitful. When things were busy, with a constant flow of customers, business was good, Stiles said. 

Yet, it was wrought with uncertainty — “feast or famine,” she said. And during this pandemic, things slowed down considerably.

“My pocket took a deep hurting. I lost my job as a result of COVID,” she said. “This actually pushed me to follow my dreams, find a career I can retire from.”

But, the Ocoee resident returned to school for reasons greater than herself: Stiles has a 24-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.

“I’m in here and I’m like, ‘This is easier than I thought.’ I didn’t give myself enough credit,” she exclaimed. “This will be stable. This is what I need for me and my son.”

Some Fields Gaining Jobs Amid Downturn

Between the months of November and December, the U.S. economy lost about 140,000 jobs, many in leisure and hospitality, according to the Orlando Economic Partnership. It marked the first net job loss since June and July.

But, the economy — including in Central Florida — also gained more than 20,000 jobs in fields such as technology.

That’s no surprise to Orlando small business owner Salmagundi “Sal” Rehmetullah, who works in tech and is on the forefront of solutions.

“Our focus was, ‘How do we enable the community to accelerate through a difficult time?,’ ” he said of his company, Fattmerchant.

Started in 2014, Fattmerchant helps small and enterprise businesses in receiving payments, both in person and online. The company experienced expansive growth, but like many others, suffered as a result of the…


From camera doorbells to security drones — how your home tech could spy on you

TREMBLING with fear, mum-of-three Lianne Davies peered out of her bedroom window into the dark winter night.

Though nobody was visible, she heard a stranger loudly threatening her husband Paul on his phone: “I’ve been watching your house and your children,” the voice said. “Come outside or I’m going to batter you.”

From camera doorbells to security drones — here is your home tech could be spying on you
From camera doorbells to security drones — here is your home tech could be spying on you

As Lianne would later learn, a hacker had broken into the family’s smart doorbell account and viewed video footage of them leaving and entering the house earlier that day.

After retrieving Paul’s mobile number from the account, the man repeatedly called his phone that evening, urging him to come outside. As Paul and Lianne’s three young children slept in their beds, he became increasingly insistent.

“Come out or I’ll steal your car,” he warned Paul, 39, while even telling him what their kids had been wearing when they returned from school.

The couple, from Port Talbot, refused to open the door. “There was no way I was letting Paul go outside,” says Lianne, 38, a stay-at-home mum to Florrie, seven, Eva, six, and Alfie, four.

“We had no idea what this guy wanted. To know someone had been spying on our children made me feel physically sick.”


As the Davies’ encounter shows, our increasing reliance on tech can leave us frighteningly exposed. Everything from smart TVs, home alarms, cameras and smart thermostats to smart lighting and fridges can be hacked, or even used as a tool for spying.

Gaming consoles can potentially be used to groom children. Even digital vacuum cleaners and sex toys pose a risk if hackers break into online accounts and steal unauthorised information. It’s even possible for them to control your vibrator with their phone.

“The more we use technology, the more criminals seek to exploit it,” says cyber expert Dr Jessica Barker, co-CEO of Cygenta.

“We’ve seen criminals take over home security cameras, compromise baby monitors and speak to victims in their homes, and many other internet-connected devices can be accessed if they have security vulnerabilities.”

And our use of smart tech is soaring….


Meet The Super Rich Czech Tech Company — And Its Russian CEO —Denying Links To The Huge SolarWinds Hack

Maxim Shafirov is looking grizzled, grumbling through a stubbled muzzle about having just two hours sleep, hunched over his computer as the snow falls behind him in a window that looks out to a wintry St. Petersburg. The Russian native’s grouchiness is understandable.

Shafirov is the CEO of Czech company JetBrains, which was likely one of the biggest tech companies you’d never heard of, until Wednesday when reports cited government sources saying it was being investigated for links to huge cyberattacks on U.S. government agencies and tech giants, via the hack of another low-profile IT provider, SolarWinds, and scores of its clients, including federal agencies. For millions of coders, the Prague-based business’ tools are invaluable, providing all manner of software to make their app building that much easier. Founded in 2000, it claims over 8 million paying users in over 213 countries. Company revenue for 2019, according to the most recently-available results for the privately-held business, stood at $270 million, with year-on-year growth of 33%. Shafirov, in an upbeat moment in an interview with Forbes, says that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, its revenue growth this last year was 10%, indicating near $300 million for 2020. The business was a so-called “unicorn” worth more than $1 billion, according to a JetBrains spokesperson.

Few outside the tech world would’ve paid the company much attention until reports in the New York Times, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal indicated those investigating what’s become one of the most severe acts of cyber espionage in recent memory were looking at the possibility JetBrains was involved. The reports hint JetBrains, or one of its apps, TeamCity, was hacked, leading to an infiltration at SolarWinds, which, in turn, had one of its own tools compromised and used to hijack customer networks. Amongst the victims are the Department of Justice, which yesterday revealed 3% of its Office 365 emails had been compromised. It joined the Department of Energy, the Treasury, Microsoft,…