Leaky Databases Are a Scourge. MongoDB Is Doing Something About It

MongoDB, a database software provider whose stock has been on a tear recently, just hired its first-ever chief information security officer. The appointment, which came Friday, signals that the company plans to take security more seriously even as it faces stiffened competition from the likes of Amazon and other tech giants.

The new boss is Lena Smart, a Glaswegian cybersecurity professional. Smart formerly held the same title at IPO-bound Tradeweb, a financial services firm that supplies the technology behind certain electronic trading markets. Prior to Tradeweb, she headed security at the New York Power Authority, where she worked for more than a decade. A cellist in her spare time, Smart told me in her Scottish brogue that her priority in the new job will be “knowing what the crown jewels are—that’s our customer data—and making sure that’s always protected.”

People leaving MongoDB and other databases unsecured on the web has been a persistent source of data-leaks over the years. Just this month, a security researcher discovered one such sieve that exposed to public view a trove of sensitive information, including location data, on millions of people in China. The misconfigured repository appears to have originated from SenseNets, a Shenzhen-based company that is likely providing the Chinese government with crowd-surveilling, facial recognition technology to track the country’s muslim Uyghur population. This is just the latest leak example; there are innumerable others.

Despite the frequency of these leaks, the situation seems to be improving. Most of these inadvertent leaks have sprung, in fairness, from people using outdated instances of the company’s so-called community edition software, a free, barer-bones version of the database product. Mark Wheeler, a MongoDB spokesperson, conceded that the 12-year-old company “struggled in its early years to find the right balance with security.” But he avers that updates to the default settings of MongoDB’s software over the past few years, plus key security team hires—including guardians Davi Ottenheimer, Kenn White, and now Smart—are changing the equation.

As Smart’s scope involves securing the totality of MongoDB’s business, the data-spillage issue ultimately falls to her. She says she’ll continue educating customers in best practices when it comes to security. She says she will also aim to imbue the company’s product development process with security, quality assurance, and testing from the earliest stages. “If we can get in at the very start” of the software development lifecycle, Smart says, it will “save us time and money and make our products more reliable and secure.”

The leaky database issue is one that extends well beyond MongoDB. It’s also a problem for rivals such as Amazon, particularly its S3 buckets, Elastic, and others. Like so many companies, these database-makers are looking now to shore up their software in the hopes of turning a historical weakness—cybersecurity—into a competitive strength. As Dev Ittycheria, MongoDB’s president and CEO, tells Fortune: making the company’s products as secure as possible “is critical to our business.”

Indeed, it’s critical to MongoDB and, increasingly, every business.

A version of this article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Fortune’s tech newsletter Data Sheet. Sign up here.

Data Sheet—Why the Satellite Market Is Getting So Overcrowded

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MIT has been holding its entrepreneur-focused New Space Age Conference for four years, and it’s notable how quickly things have changed. For one, the first iteration fit in a smaller room and lacked the giant and delicious mid-morning doughnuts supplied for the 2019 conference. But more importantly, the focus has shifted in two ways.

Way back in 2016, Boeing was the big incumbent, the company that had dominated the space economy for decades, offering its wisdom to all the startups and would-be startups in the audience. But Naveed Hussain, who headed the company’s R&D skunkworks, sounded a bit defensive as he insisted: “We are ready to compete.” Portentously, just the day before the conference, Elon Musk’s SpaceX landed one of its reusable rockets on a barge floating at sea. In hindsight, it’s obvious that a changing of the guard had occurred.

At this year’s New Space Age conference, SpaceX was the big incumbent and its rocket technology has now moved from the demonstration stage to the workman-like commercial phase.

Shattering the cost of putting satellites in orbit has allowed dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of new startups to attract funding and go into business, kicking off a new space race. Van Espahbodi, managing partner of the Starburst Aerospace Accelerator funding many of those startups, may not have realized the irony of his statement that “ten years ago there would have been executives from Lockheed and Boeing in this room.” (It was only three, Van.)

But Espahbodi also sounded another common refrain from the 2019 edition of the conference, one that marks the second shift from 2016. While back then startups were still trying to figure out how to woo Silicon Valley, now it seems they may have succeeded too well. Espahbodi worried that too much money may have flowed into too many startups all chasing the same few satellite opportunities. “There’s lots of not so smart money out there,” he quipped.

The most impressive CEO on stage may have been John Serafini from HawkEye 360, which is launching satellites to track all manner of radio frequency signals on the ground. The company’s satellites could help stop “bad actors in a maritime environment” from creating billions of dollars of “negative externalities,” he explained. What? They’re going to catch pirates!

Aside from the excess financing chasing too few ideas, Julien Cantegreil, the CEO of SpaceAble, offered a unique reason why startups in the space market may start crashing out–literally. There’s actually a limit to how many satellites can go into orbit before debris and collisions become a big problem. “We cannot continue to send more objects to space,” he warned. “At some point we need to stop and think about the low earth (orbital) environment.” Hopefully there won’t be any actual examples of that problem to discuss at next year’s conference.

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Lyft priced its initial public offering at $72 a share giving the company a stock market value north of $24 billion. It’s expected to be the first of many mega-startups going public this year, as my colleague Danielle Abril reports. I’m not into the false precision of many Wall Street metrics but I do like to compare startups to others in their neighborhood. Software maker Atlassian is valued at about $26 billion, Internet infrastructure operator Verisign at $22 billion, and Check Point Software at $20 billion. Lyft has the most annual revenue and the highest growth rate, though both Verisign and Check Point are already profitable. You’ll have to do your own due diligence on Lyft’s business prospects, but I’m here to say that its initial valuation isn’t crazy.

Amazon’s Giving Prime Members Free Year of Nintendo Switch Online

Add another perk for Amazon Prime members.

The retailer has announced a new partnership with Nintendo that will give subscribers of its loyalty program a free year of Nintendo Switch Online access. That service typically costs Switch owners $20 per year.

At the same time, Amazon is getting wise to people who use the trial window for Prime to claim the best perks. In order to take advantage of this deal, members initially will be allowed to sign up for only three months of free Switch Online access. Then, after 60 days, users can claim the remaining nine months.

There’s a Sept. 24 deadline to sign up for the first part of the perk. The nine-month extension must be claimed by Jan. 22.

The service is tied to Twitch Prime, one of Amazon Prime’s benefits. The free months can be added on to any existing paid Switch Online subscriptions.

The partnership between Amazon and Nintendo is a notable one, as the two companies have not always been on the best of terms. In 2012, for example, Amazon suddenly halted its first party sales of Nintendo hardware. (Resellers were allowed to continue selling the systems, although at prices of their own choosing.)

In 2015 the two began to patch up their differences.

Amazon, which owns Twitch, is widely expected at some point to announce a video game streaming service along the same line of Google’s Stadia. The company has not commented on speculation about such action, including any sort of timeline.