Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.
Hacker group Shadow Brokers, which has taken credit for leaking NSA cyber spying tools -- including ones used in the WannaCry global ransomware attack -- has said it plans to sell code that can be used to hack into the world's most used computers, software and phones. From a report on Reuters: Using trademark garbled English, the Shadow Brokers group said in an online statement that, from June, it will begin releasing software to anyone willing to pay for access to some of the tech world's biggest commercial secrets. In the blog post, the group said it was setting up a "monthly data dump" and that it could offer tools to break into web browsers, network routers, phone handsets, plus newer exploits for Windows 10 and data stolen from central banks. It said it was set to sell access to previously undisclosed vulnerabilities, known as zero-days, that could be used to attack Microsoft's latest software system, Windows 10. The post did not identify other products by name. It also threatened to dump data from banks using the SWIFT international money transfer network and from Russian, Chinese, Iranian or North Korean nuclear and missile programs, without providing further details.