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Gupshup’s chatbot authoring and multichannel messaging platform gets $100M boost

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Gupshup

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Gupshup, a messaging-focused customer engagement platform, today announced it has raised $100 million in funding from Tiger Global Management, valuing the startup at $1.4 billion. Gupshup says the funds will be put toward its go-to-market, product, and customer acquisition efforts.

The ubiquity of smartphones and messaging apps — as well as the pandemic — have contributed to the increased adoption of conversational technologies. Fifty-six percent of business respondents in an Accenture survey said conversational bots and other experiences are driving disruption in their industry. And a Twilio study showed that 9 out of 10 consumers would like the option to use messaging to contact a business.

Gupshup, which was founded in 2014, offers a chatbot authoring service that allows developers to create, deploy, and publish chatbots across over 30 channels. The company claims to send more than 6 billion marketing, sales, and support messages per month between over 100,000 businesses and customers via Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Skype, Slack, and more.

India is one of Gupshup’s largest markets. According to cofounder and CEO Beerud Seth, in recent years, business messaging has become more widespread in the country as text messages have begun to include hyperlinks and leverage newer IP-based messaging channels like WhatsApp, rich communications services, and Gupshup’s own Gupshup IP (GIP).

Gupshup pitches GIP as a “smarter,” “more conversational” messaging service that’s compatible with a range of mobile devices. It comes in two flavors — GIP Native (which embeds in native messaging apps) and GIP Widget (a device-agnostic chat widget) — and features end-to-end encrypted messages with buttons and rich media like ecommerce flows, mini games, and cards.

“Customers expect to converse with businesses the way they do with friends. They expect the conversation to be simple, easy, quick, contextual, and personalized,” Sheth said in a press release. “Gupshup’s mission is to build the tools that help businesses better engage customers through mobile messaging and conversational experiences.”

Gupshup occupies a chatbot market that’s anticipated to be worth $142 billion by 2024, according to Insider Intelligence, up from $2 billion in 2019. Gartner predicts that over 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on chatbot creation than on mobile app development by this year. And Juniper Research expects that 75% to 90% of customer queries will be handled by chatbots within the next year.

Gupshup

Even before the pandemic, autonomous agents were on the way to becoming the rule rather than the exception, partly because consumers prefer it that way. According to research published last year by Vonage subsidiary NewVoiceMedia, 25% of people prefer to have their queries handled by a chatbot or other self-service alternative. And Salesforce says roughly 69% of consumers choose chatbots for quick communication with brands.

Perhaps reflecting the growing chatbot demand, Gushup had an annual run rate of around $150 million as of 2020.

“The growth in business use of messaging and conversational experiences, transforming virtually every customer touchpoint, is an exciting secular trend,” Tiger Global Management partner John Curtius said in a statement. “Gupshup is uniquely positioned to win in this market with a differentiated product, a clear and sustainable moat, and an experienced team with a proven track record. In addition to its market leadership, Gupshup’s unique combination of scale, growth, and profitability attracted us.”

This latest tranche brings San Francisco, California-based Gushup’s total raised to over $144 million. The company closed a $12 million series D round led by Globespan Capital Partners in March 2010.

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The RetroBeat — Diablo II: Resurrected gives a diabolically good first impression

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Seeing this guy makes me feel like 13-year-old again.

After the disappointing Warcraft III: Reforged, I wondered if I really wanted a Diablo II remake. When Blizzard announced Diablo II: Resurrected earlier this year, I wanted to remain skeptical. It felt a little better learning that Vicarious Visions, which created fantastic remakes for Crash Bandicoot and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, was working on the project. Still, I was worried Blizzard would mess things up again.

Now that I’ve been playing a bit of Resurrected, I feel better. Blizzard has launched a PC technical alpha that runs through the weekend. It gives access to the first two of the game’s five acts. I can play as three of the seven classes: Barbarian, Amazon, and Sorceress. It’s only for single-player, so we can’t try out online multiplayer.

The full game comes out later this year for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One along with PC. And I’m going to let myself be excited now.

Above: Seeing this guy makes me feel like a 13-year-old again.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Diablo II is still good

I love the original Diablo II. I played it back in 2000 and had an incredible, dark adventure with my Barbarian. Heck, I still remember the giant, orange-glowing bastard sword that I found toward the end of Act 2 that I ended up using for most of the game. I recalled the dozens of times I had to use a scroll to teleportation so I could go back to town and buy more health potions during my fight with Diablo. It’s one of my favorite game experiences.

That was a bit more than 20 years ago. Starting Diablo II again, everything came back to me. When I was in town but my health wasn’t full, I suddenly remembered that I had to talk to a specific NPC in the camp if I wanted to be healed. I began organizing my equipment the same way I did in 2000, putting my tomes on the far right slots and leaving the far left area for new loot.

It’s all an incredible wave of nostalgia. But Diablo II is more than that. It’s still a great game. It’s less flashy and slower than many modern action-RPGs, especially when compared to Diablo III. But that works in its favor. Yes, your inventory space is extremely small. You will not be spamming dozens of special abilities with dazzling particle effects during fights.

Combat, especially early on, is simple. You click on enemies and swing your weapon at them. As far as I can tell from my memory, it’s the same as it was in 2000. You have a stamina bar, and it limits how often your character can run instead of walk. Diablo II is restrictive. But it works. It just feels a bit more gritty than what we’re used to today. It doesn’t hold your hand and go out of its way to make things easy for you, which makes your victories feel more satisfying.

Never thought that a place called The Den of Evil could be so comforting.

Above: Never thought that a place called The Den of Evil could be so comforting.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Remade

So, yes, Diablo II was great, and it’s still great. But we’ve seen Blizzard ruin a classic before with Warcraft III: Reforged. Thankfully, the effort appears much more polished this time. Resurrected looks updated while retaining the spirit of the original. It’s still a dark, dreary world. It’s just less pixelated and jagged. And if you like your jagged pixels, which I know I do, you can still switch to the old graphics by pushing a single button. I spent a lot of time going back and forth between the two, having fun comparing the old characters with their updated looks.

There are also some nice quality of life changes. The transparent map, which used to take up most of the screen, now nestles itself in the corner. You can still have it use the full screen if you want, you adorable purist you, but I like it just fine in its new position. Resurrected also has an option to have you pick up gold automatically when you walk over it. That’s nice. I mean, who ever doesn’t want to pick up gold?

Performance hasn’t been perfect. My framerate has suffered when loading new areas. It also drops when I’m standing on a waypoint. Of course, this is a technical alpha, so I’m not all that worried about it.

There’s a reason so many people had been asking for a Diablo II remake. It’s a special game. It’s something that I probably should have replayed on my own years ago. This remake just gives me a good excuse to do so.

This is just a sample, but it’s a promising one. Resurrected isn’t just bringing back a classic. It could also help revive Blizzard’s retro gaming credentials.

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No password required: Mobile carrier exposes data for millions of accounts

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No password required: Mobile carrier exposes data for millions of accounts

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Q Link Wireless, a provider of low-cost mobile phone and data services to 2 million US-based customers, has been making sensitive account data available to anyone who knows a valid phone number on the carrier’s network, an analysis of the company’s account management app shows.

Dania, Florida-based Q Link Wireless is what’s known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, meaning it doesn’t operate its own wireless network but rather buys services in bulk from other carriers and resells them. It provides government-subsidized phones and service to low-income consumers through the FCC’s Lifeline Program. It also offers a range of low-cost service plans through its Hello Mobile brand. In 2019, Q Link Wireless said it had 2 million customers.

The carrier offers an app called My Mobile Account (for both iOS and Android) that customers can use to monitor text and minutes histories, data and minute usage, or to buy additional minutes or data. The app also displays the customer’s:

  • First and last name
  • Home address
  • Phone call history (from/to)
  • Text message history (from/to)
  • Phone carrier account number needed for porting
  • Email address
  • Last four digits of the associated payment card

Screenshots from the iOS version look like this:

No password required . . . what?

Since at least December and possibly much earlier, My Mobile Account has been displaying this information for every customer account whenever it is presented with a valid Q Link Wireless phone number. That’s right—no password or anything else required.

When I first saw a Reddit thread discussing the app, I thought for sure there was some kind of mistake. So I installed the app, got the permission from another thread reader, and entered his phone number. I was immediately viewing his personal information, as the redacted images above demonstrate.

The person who started the Reddit thread said in an email that he first reported this glaring insecurity to Q Link Wireless sometime last year. Emails he provided show that he notified support twice again this year, first in February and again this month.

Feedback left in reviews for both the iOS and Android offerings also reported this issue, in several cases with a response from a Q Link Wireless representative thanking the person for the feedback.

Downright negligence

The data exposure is serious because phone numbers are so easy to come by. We give them to prospective employers, car mechanics, and other strangers. And of course, phone numbers are easily obtained by private detectives, abusive spouses, stalkers, and other people who have an interest in a particular person. Q Link Wireless making customer data freely available to anyone who knows a customer’s phone number is an act of downright negligence.

I began emailing the carrier about the insecurity on Wednesday and followed up with almost a dozen more messages. Q Link Wireless CEO and founder Issa Asad didn’t respond despite my noting that every hour he allowed the data exposure to continue compounded the risk to his customers.

Then late on Thursday, My Mobile Account stopped connecting to customers’ accounts. When presented with the number of a Q Link Wireless customer, the app responds with a message saying, “Phone number doesn’t match any account.” The iOS and Android versions of the app were last updated in February, suggesting that the fix is the result of a change Q Link Wireless made to a server.

number doesnt match

While My Mobile Account displayed customers’ personal information, it didn’t provide a means to change that data. The app also didn’t display passwords. That means a person couldn’t exploit this leak to perform a SIM swap or lock users out of their accounts, although the exposure might make it easier for a would-be SIM swapper to social engineer a Q Link Wireless employee into porting a number to a new phone.

There are no indications one way or the other that this leakage was actively exploited. Researchers from security firm Intel471 found no discussions in criminal forums about the available data, but there’s no way to know if it was abused on a smaller scale, say by someone a Q Link Wireless customer knows or has interacted with.

As phone users seeking low-cost, no-frills mobile service, Q Link Customers are a part of a population that may be least able to afford data breach services and other privacy services. The carrier has yet to notify customers of the data exposure. People using the service should consider any data displayed by the app to be available to anyone who has their phone number.

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Wargaming opens office for possibly hundreds of employees in Vilnius, Lithuania

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Wargaming opens office for possibly hundreds of employees in Vilnius, Lithuania

Wargaming said it has opened a new office in Vilnius, Lithuania, to strengthen the company’s distributed development model.

The office will employ developers and it will also act as a publishing arm for central and Eastern Europe. The new hub will be located in the city’s modern business district and will focus on current and future projects alike. Set in a rapidly expanding area of the capital, the studio will become a new working place for several hundred employees within three to four years.

For Wargaming’s MS-1 studio, Vilnius will become another key spot alongside the existing offices in Minsk and Moscow. While the flagship cross-platform shooter World of Tanks: Blitz boasts over 140 million global downloads, MS-1 will continue to create mid-core games for mobile and portable devices — with two unannounced titles in the development pipeline. The studio already has 325 people.

The studio is led by industry veteran Thaine Lyman, who has been with Wargaming since 2015. Prior to that, Thaine spent over 17 years at Activision, working as executive producer for the Call of Duty series on console and PC platforms, as well as vice president of of production overseeing games like Destiny and Marvel licensed product offerings.

Above: World of Tanks is a popular online game.

Image Credit: Wargaming

The plan for the MS-1 team in Lithuania is to be a multicultural melting pot, with employees from across the world. The team will utilize this variety to help deliver games that click with different audiences, while also offering a welcoming and representative work environment for new employees.

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