Adobe to kill off Flash plug-in by 2020

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Adobe’s Flash software is regularly updated to remove flaws that cyber-thieves exploit

Adobe Systems has said that it plans to phase out its Flash Player plug-in by the end of 2020.

The technology was once one of the most widely used ways for people to watch video clips and play games online.

But it also attracted much criticism, particularly as flaws in its code meant it became a popular way for hackers to infect computers.

In recent years, much of its functionality has been offered by the rival HTML5 technology.

One of HTML5’s benefits is that it can be used to make multimedia content available within webpages without requiring users to install and update a dedicated plug-in.

Decline and fall

Apple was one of Flash’s most vocal critics. The late Steve Jobs once wrote a public letter about its shortcomings, highlighting concerns about its reliability, security and performance.

The plug-in was never supported by Apple’s iOS mobile devices.

Adobe’s vice president of product development, Govind Balakrishnan, said the firm had chosen to end Flash because other technologies, such as HTML5, had “matured enough and are capable enough to provide viable alternatives to the Flash player.”

He added: “Few technologies have had such a profound and positive impact in the internet era.”

Apps developer Malcolm Barclay, who had worked on Flash in its early days, told the BBC: “It fulfilled its promise for a while but it never saw the mobile device revolution coming and ultimately that’s what killed it.”

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Media captionWATCH: BBC’s Chris Foxx asked how long Flash would survive in 2015

When Adobe acquired Flash in its 2005 purchase of Macromedia, the technology was on more than 98% of personal computers.

But on Chrome, now the most popular web browser, Flash’s usage has fallen off dramatically.

In 2014 it was used each day by 80% of desktop users, according to Google. The current figure is just 17%.

“This trend reveals that sites are migrating to open-web technologies, which are faster and more power-efficient than Flash,” Google added. “They’re also more secure.”

Google phased out full support for Flash software at the end of last year.

Mr Balakrishnan said it did not expect the demise of Flash to affect profits at Adobe.

“We think the opportunity for Adobe is greater in a post-Flash world,” he said.

But the firm added that it remained committed to support Flash up until the end of 2020 “as customers and partners put their migration plans into place”.

There was immediate reaction to the news on Twitter.

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Rio Tinto facing SFO investigation

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The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) says it has opened an investigation into British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Group.

The SFO says the probe is “into suspected corruption in the conduct of business in the Republic of Guinea by the Rio Tinto group, its employees and others associated with it”.

It is asking anyone with relevant information to get in touch.

Rio Tinto says it “will fully co-operate” with the investigation.

The firm employs 50,000 people in 35 countries across six continents.

Last October the mining firm agreed to sell its entire stake in the Simandou iron ore project in the west African country to Chinese firm Chinalco for between $1.1bn and $1.3bn.

The following month, Rio Tinto said it had contacted regulatory authorities in the UK and US over certain consultancy payments made in 2011 with regard to the Simandou project.

In a statement the company said: “Rio Tinto will fully co-operate with the Serious Fraud Office and any other relevant authorities, as it has done since it self-reported in November 2016.”

UK to bring in drone registration

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Media captionIntroducing drone registration “is not about stopping people having fun”

The UK government has announced plans to introduce drone registration and safety awareness courses for owners of the small unmanned aircraft.

It will affect anyone who owns a drone which weighs more than 250 grams (8oz).

Drone maker DJI said it was in favour of the measures.

There is no time frame or firm plans as to how the new rules will be enforced and the Department of Transport admitted that “the nuts and bolts still have to be ironed out”.

The drone safety awareness test will involve potential flyers having to “prove that they understand UK safety, security and privacy regulations”, it said.

The plans also include the extension of geo-fencing, in which no-fly zones are programmed into drones using GPS co-ordinates, around areas such as prisons and airports.

‘Protect the public’

“Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones,” said Aviation Minister Lord Martin Callanan.

“Increasingly, drones are proving vital for inspecting transport infrastructure for repair or aiding police and fire services in search and rescue operations, even helping to save lives.

“But like all technology, drones too can be misused. By registering drones and introducing safety awareness tests to educate users, we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public.”

There has not been a significant accident involving a drone yet, but there have been several reports of near misses with commercial aircraft. There have also been incidents of drones being used to deliver drugs to prison inmates.

“Registration has its place. I would argue it will focus the mind of the flyer – but I don’t think you can say it’s going to be a magic solution,” said Dr Alan McKenna, law lecturer at the University of Kent.

“There will be people who will simply not be on the system, that’s inevitable.”

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There have been occasions of near misses between drones and other aircraft

Similar registration rules in the US were successfully challenged in court in March 2017 and as a result are currently not applicable to non-commercial flyers.

Dr McKenna said there were also issues around how a drone’s owner could be identified by police and whether personal liability insurance should also be a legal requirement in the event of an accident.

‘Common sense’

DJI spokesman Adam Lisberg said the plans sounded like “reasonable common sense”.

“The fact is that there are multiple users of the airspace and the public should have access to the air – we firmly believe that – but you need systems to make sure everybody can do it safely,” he said.

“In all of these issues the question is, where is the reasonable middle ground? Banning drones is unreasonable, having no rules is also unreasonable.

“We’re encouraged that [the British government] seems to be recognising the value drones provide and looking for reasonable solutions.”

AlphaBay and Hansa dark web markets shut down

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AlphaBay went offline earlier this month

Two of the largest dark web marketplaces have been shut down following a “landmark” international law enforcement investigation.

The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been associated with the trade in illicit items such as drugs, weapons, malware and stolen data.

According to Europol, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay.

Hansa was seized and covertly monitored for a month before being deactivated.

The agency said it believed the bust would lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe.

“The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today,” said Europol’s executive director Rob Wainwright.

It was a “landmark” operation, according to US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Andrew McCabe.

AlphaBay has been offline since early July, fuelling suspicions among users that a law enforcement crackdown had taken place.

‘You cannot hide’

“We know of several Americans who were killed by drugs on AlphaBay,” said US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“One victim was just 18 years old when in February she overdosed on a powerful synthetic opioid which she had bought on AlphaBay.”

He also said a 13-year-old boy died after overdosing on a synthetic opioid bought by a high school classmate via the site.

Mr Sessions cautioned criminals from thinking that they could evade prosecution by using the dark web: “You cannot hide,” he said, “We will find you.”

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Media captionJeff Sessions highlighted the significant quantities of illegal drugs traded via the dark web

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said that illegal drugs listed for sale on AlphaBay included heroin and fentanyl.

Investigations were led by the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police.

Police in other countries, including the UK, France and Lithuania, also contributed.

The Dutch National Police took over the Hansa marketplace on 20 June after two men in Germany were arrested and servers in Germany, The Netherlands and Lithuania were seized.

This allowed for “the covert monitoring of criminal activities on the platform” until it was eventually shut down a month later.

Ever since AlphaBay went offline earlier in July, users of the site had discussed potential alternative dark web marketplaces on online forums.

Hansa was frequently mentioned, meaning that the authorities were likely able to uncover new criminal activity on Hansa as users migrated to it from AlphaBay.

“We recorded an eight times increase in the number of human users on Hansa immediately following the takedown of AlphaBay,” said Mr Wainwright.

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Media captionTechnology explained: What is the dark web?

Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco

The significance of today’s announcement will only truly be known over the coming year or more as authorities follow up the “many new leads” they said had been found as a result of infiltrating and shutting down these two enormous networks.

While the sites’ closure is a massive boost, the DoJ and Europol both readily acknowledge that new services will simply pop up to replace them. After all, the closure of previous dark web marketplace Silk Road in 2013 was eventually followed with AlphaBay – bigger, more lucrative and, by the looks of it, more dangerous.

What authorities really want to do is start putting significant numbers of people behind bars.

This huge coordinated action has only resulted in a handful of arrests – and one key suspect apparently took his own life seven days after being brought into custody.

It’s a start, but it’s clear such big services require an large, intricate network of criminals – and that’s what authorities are targeting.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

An alleged administrator of AlphaBay, 26-year-old Canadian Alexandre Cazes, was arrested in Thailand on 5 July following a joint operation between US, Canadian and Thai authorities.

Police also seized millions of dollars in assets, three properties and four Lamborghini cars.

But Cazes was later found dead in a Bangkok jail cell.

The DoJ said that he apparently took his own life.

A previous dark web marketplace, Silk Road, was shut down by the FBI in 2013 and a successor – Silk Road 2.0 – was deactivated the following year.

However, in its press release today the DoJ said that AlphaBay had more than 350,000 listings for illicit items of various kinds – Silk Road only had 14,000 when it was seized in 2013.

Google to add ‘news feed’ to website and app

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A continuous feed of news articles, videos and websites will appear on the Google homepage

Google is adding a personalised Facebook-style news feed to its homepage – -to show users content they may be interested in before they search.

It will display news stories, features, videos and music chosen on the basis of previous searches by the same user.

Users will also be able to click a “follow” button on search results to add topics of interest to their feed.

One analyst said the move would help Google compete with rivals.

“Google has a strong incentive to make search as useful as possible,” said Mattia Littunen, a senior research analyst at Enders Analysis.

“Facebook’s news feed is one of its main rivals. It is competing with other ways of accessing content.”

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People will be able to “follow” search topics to see them in the news feed

Google has been trialling a simpler version of its news feed in its smartphone app since December, and its full news feed will be added to its smartphone apps in the US first.

But the company has now confirmed it intends to add the feature to too.

Google is known for its sparse homepage, which, though mostly white space, has, according to analytics firm Alexa Internet, become the world’s most-visited website.

The feed will include news stories from a variety of publishers, to avoid the so-called filter bubble effect, where people follow only content aligned with their pre-existing point of view.

“To provide information from diverse perspectives, news stories may have multiple viewpoints from a variety of sources… and, when available, you’ll be able to fact check,” the company said in a blog post.

The search giant already offers some context-based information in its smartphone search app in the form of Google Now cards, but discontinued its personalised homepage service iGoogle in 2013.

Items in the new personalised feed can be tapped or clicked to launch a Google search for more information.

“Search ads are more lucrative than in-feed ads such as Facebook’s,” said Mr Littunen.

“Google’s business is based on selling advertising, so this gives them more contact points with consumers.”

The company did not divulge whether it would insert advertisements or sponsored posts into the feed, but Mr Littunen suggested the focus of the service was to make Google more useful and drive users to its other services.

“Google has a long term project of anticipating user needs. It’s a move to make sure people aren’t going elsewhere for information,” he told the BBC.

Lockheed Martin profits jump on higher F-35 jet sales

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Increased sales of the F-35 fighter jet have helped Lockheed Martin, the biggest supplier of defence equipment to the US military, to report better-than-expected profits.

The F-35, formerly known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is being built by the US defence giant in partnership with other countries, including the UK.

Lockheed Martin reported a 5% rise in second-quarter profits to $942m.

The company also raised its sales and profit forecasts for 2017.

The company said sales in its aeronautics business, its most important division, were up by almost 20% in the second quarter of the year.

The F-35 programme is the US defence department’s most expensive, something President Donald Trump singled out last year for criticism.

The UK has so far ordered 24 of the jets, the first of which are due to go into service with the RAF and the Royal Navy next year.

The short take-off and vertical landing planes, which will be known as the Lightning II, are set to be deployed on the UK’s two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.

Drone ‘threat’ to planes over Israel

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Sde Dov airport mainly handles domestic flights

A man has been arrested on suspicion of flying a consumer drone close to planes as they prepared to land in Tel Aviv.

The 21-year-old was held after footage was posted to YouTube and shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Israeli reports say that he has been put under five days of house arrest and the police have confiscated a drone and mobile phone while they carry out further investigations.

Israel’s Transport Ministry described a “disturbing and serious incident”.

The YouTube posting suggested the drone had been flying as close as 90ft (27m) to the passenger aircraft.

However, the suspect was later quoted on the Hebrew-language Israel Today news site as saying that the true distance had been more than three times that figure.

The video, which is still online, states a Mavic Pro drone was used to capture the footage of aeroplanes making their final descent to Sde Dov airport.

In some cases, the planes appear to be the same altitude as the drone. In others, the jets are closer to the sea.

The video also appears to show a man, filmed from above, controlling the drone while seated outside a bar.

The edited material was uploaded to YouTube on Thursday and shared on other social media the same day.

It has since clocked up more than 70,000 views, with many of the resulting comments criticising the film-maker’s “stupidity” and saying that viewers had reported it to the local authorities.

DJI – the Chinese-maker of the Mavic Pro – has also condemned the filming.

“We stand ready to assist national aviation authorities as they investigate a recent wave of photos and videos showing clear and intentional lawbreaking in ways that pose real danger to manned air traffic,” it said in a statement.

DJI said its drones came equipped with software that should prevent them flying within five miles (8km) of Sde Dov airport unless the feature had been disabled.

Consumer drones are an increasing headache for airport operators across the globe.

Earlier this month, Gatwick Airport, near London, had to close its runway and diverted flights after a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was spotted close by.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating a suspected midair collision between a drone and a light aircraft near to Adelaide.

Research by Cranfield University into aircraft-drone collisions indicates they need not be fatal but lithium-ion batteries used by UAVs mean they can pose a greater threat than bird strikes.

‘Fake news’: What’s the best way to tame the beast?

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Should we take more care to establish the truth of online stories first before sharing them?

Most people seem to agree that “fake news” is a big problem online, but what’s the best way to deal with it? Is technology too blunt an instrument to discern truth from lies, satire from propaganda? Are human beings better at flagging up false stories?

During the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, we were treated to headlines such as “Hillary Clinton sold weapons to Isis” and “Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for President”.

Both completely untrue.

But they were just two examples of a tsunami of attention-grabbing, false stories that flooded social media and the internet. We were awash with so-called “fake news”.

Many such headlines were simply trying to drive traffic to websites for the purpose of earning advertising dollars. Others though, seemed part of a concerted attempt to sway public opinion in favour of one presidential candidate or the other.

Commentators heaped opprobrium on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for not doing more to block such content on his influential social media platform, which now has more than two billion users worldwide.

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US president Donald Trump tends to brand media stories he merely doesn’t like as “fake news”

“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic,” he wrote in defence last November. “Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes.”

But a study conducted by news website BuzzFeed revealed that fake news travelled faster and further during the US election campaign.

The 20 top-performing false election stories generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook, whereas the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 reputable news websites generated 7,367,000 shares, reactions and comments.

“Due to our tendency as humans to believe in things that already support our opinions, it finds readers who then spread it to like-minded individuals using social media,” says Magnus Revang, research director at Gartner.

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Facebook has been testing new ways to flag up possibly fake stories before users share them

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Facebook is also considering allowing users to report posts as fake

The criticism of Facebook obviously hit home, because it has now introduced a range of measures to tackle fake news, including placing ads in newspapers giving tips on how to spot such stories.

It is also working with independent fact-checking organisations, such as Snopes, to help police its pages.

“If the fact-checking organisations identify a story as false, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link to a corresponding article explaining why,” explained Facebook’s Adam Mosseri in April.

Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski tells the BBC: “We don’t really take directives from Facebook, we have a partnership, which means that if we have already debunked a story we mark it as debunked if it appears in a list of disputed news stories that is provided to us.”

Snopes uses a small editorial team to debunk, myths, urban legends and fake news, but a team of international students thinks an algorithm can do the job.

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Anant Goel (left) and his fellow students wrote their fakes-news-spotting algorithm in two days

They’ve created FiB, a program that analyses news on Facebook and labels stories as “verified” or “not verified”.

“Many social media giants had rejected the idea that an algorithm could detect fake news,” says Anant Goel, FiB’s 18-year-old co-founder.

“We check the authenticity of the link itself for things such as malware, inappropriate content or how often fake news comes from that particular news site,” explains Mr Goel, originally from Mumbai, India, now studying computer science at Purdue University in the US.

“We also cross-check the content of each article across multiple databases to ensure the same thing is mentioned on other sources as well.

“Depending on both of these factors, we generate an aggregated score. Anything that gets a rating below 70% gets marked as incorrect,” he says.

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Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski thinks humans are more effective than algorithms

FiB, which can be added as a Google Chrome extension (in the US only), won a Google “Best Moonshot” award.

Other Chrome extensions, such as B.S. Detector and Fake News Alert, aim to do similar things.

But is this labelling-by-algorithm approach the right one? Gartner’s Mr Revang has his doubts.

“The challenge is that we would then be more inclined to believe stories that didn’t have the label,” he says.

And this assumption would be “a real danger”, he believes. “You would have plenty of stories it didn’t detect, and some stories it would falsely detect.

“The real danger, however, would be that adopting AI [artificial intelligence] to label fake news would most likely trigger fake news producers to increase their sophistication in order to fool the algorithms.”

Last year, Google came under fire after a link to a Holocaust denial site came top of search rankings in response to the question “did the Holocaust happen?”

More Technology of Business

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Google’s response has been to employ its army of 10,000 evaluators to flag up “offensive or upsetting” content.

So, are people always going to be better than technology at doing this kind of job?

“I actually think it would be an excellent idea if every social media network hired its own newsroom full of people,” says Ms Binkowski.

“The first network to do it, and to really go all in, would lead the way to the next phase of our social media culture.”

But Google – as you might expect – isn’t giving up on technology just yet.

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Should social media platforms and search engines be treated like traditional publishers?

This month, it awarded researchers at City, University of London £300,000 to build a web-based app called DMINR. The app combines machine learning and AI technologies to help journalists fact check and interrogate public data sets.

The team will enlist the help of 30 European newsrooms to test the tool, which is aimed at tackling the proliferation of “fake news”, as well helping journalist conduct investigations.

So should social media platforms and search engines be treated like traditional publishers?

“I don’t believe you can put the same responsibility on social media and search engines as we do on newspapers and TV channels,” says Mr Revang.

But it’s clear that some governments are losing patience with the “we’re not publishers” defence.

Germany, for example, recently voted to impose fines of up to 50m euros (£43.9m) on social media companies if they fail to remove “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours.

But perhaps we should also take more responsibility to check out the provenance of stories first before unthinkingly clicking on that “share” button.

  • Follow Technology of Business editor Matthew Wall on Twitter and Facebook

DeepMind AI is learning to walk and other tech news

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak looks at some of the best of the week’s technology news stories including:

  • Facebook announces it is trialling embedded adverts in its Messenger app.
  • Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s See You Again has overtaken Psy’s Gangnam Style to be the most-watched video on YouTube
  • Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence is attempting to learn how to walk using virtual environments, which could one day be used to help robots navigate in complex or unfamiliar spaces.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

Australian PM seeks access to encrypted messages

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The Australian government says it wants new laws to force tech firms such as Apple and Facebook to provide access to encrypted messages.

Some apps such as WhatsApp use end-to-end encryption, making messages unreadable if intercepted.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has warned that encrypted messaging apps could be used by criminals and terrorists.

But security experts say strong encryption protects citizens’ privacy.

What’s the issue?

Many countries, including Australia, have laws in place that can force messaging services to hand over a suspect’s communications to police with an appropriate warrant.

However, messaging companies cannot hand over messages that have been end-to-end encrypted because they do not receive a legible copy.

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This encryption means ordinary citizens’ messages cannot be intercepted by criminals or spies as they travel across the internet.

But some people worry that terrorists and criminals can communicate secretly this way.

“I think most people agree that there is a problem,” said Prof Alan Woodward, a computer scientist at Surrey University.

“The trouble is trying to force companies to decrypt via legislation is the very reason end-to-end encryption was introduced – particularly by US-based firms post-Snowden – to give their global customer base confidence that no government could get them to do what the Australians now propose.”

What does Australia want?

Mr Turnbull said encryption meant online messages were “effectively dark to the reach of the law”, which he said was “not acceptable”.

He said companies had to “assist the rule of law” and provide law enforcement with access to encrypted messages.

“For this to work, the companies will have to change their technical architecture or somehow weaken the encryption,” said Prof Woodward. “Either is a bad idea.”

Some politicians have called for apps to build a “back door” into their systems, to allow law enforcement access to unencrypted messages. But such a system could also be exploited by criminals, defeating the purpose of encryption.

Mr Turnbull said he was not seeking a “back door” and wanted communications handed over in “the usual way that applies in the offline world”.

Prof Woodward said modern encryption methods had not been cracked.

But Mr Turnbull said Australian law would prevail over the laws of mathematics.

He told journalists: “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia.”

Formula 1 signs Snapchat deal ahead of British Grand Prix

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Formula 1 motor racing has signed a global deal with mobile app Snapchat to create exclusive content from its upcoming grand prix races.

The deal marks F1’s first commercial tie-up with a major digital service that appears on mobile devices first.

The partnership will kick-off this weekend, with coverage of the British Grand Prix on Sunday via Snapchat’s Our Stories format.

F1 is currently looking to develop the sport on several digital platforms.

The new arrangement will see footage from the racing season hosted on Snap’s editorially-curated Our Stories platform.

It will feature compilations of videos and pictures submitted from users at F1 events and locations around the world.

‘Social media strategy’

The material is intended to give a different type of coverage from that seen via more traditional broadcasters.

Material from the British Grand Prix that features on the Our Story stream will be made available to users in the UK and US.

Snap will then go on to cover other F1 races in Singapore, Japan, the US, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

“Our Stories allow Snapchatters at the same event to contribute their unique perspectives through video and photo Snaps to one collective Story, capturing the atmosphere and excitement,” Snapchat said.

Frank Arthofer, head of digital at F1, said: “This is the first step towards expanding our social media strategy.

“We need to continue to bring new fans to the sport – by reaching out to them on social media platforms with behind the scenes, fun and engaging content. Snap’s platform is one of the most popular among ‘millennials,’ a sector we are particularly keen on attracting, as it represents the future of our sport.”

Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey ‘won’t use morally wrong Uber’

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Media captionRebecca Long-Bailey told Today Uber’s “not morally acceptable”

Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has said she doesn’t use taxi app Uber because it is not “morally acceptable”.

“I don’t like the way they treat their workers,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Ms Long-Bailey claimed Uber drivers were being “exploited” and should have the same rights as workers with permanent jobs.

Uber said its drivers liked “being their own boss”.

Ms Long-Bailey told Today: “I don’t personally use Uber because I don’t feel that it is morally acceptable but that’s not to say they can’t reform their practices.”

She added: “I don’t want to see companies model their operations on the Uber model.”

The San Francisco-based company argues that its drivers are not employees but self-employed contractors.

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An Uber spokesman said: “Millions of people rely on Uber to get around and tens of thousands of drivers use our app to make money on their own terms.

“Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades before our app existed and with Uber they have more control.

“Drivers are totally free to choose if, when and where they drive with no shifts or minimum hours. In fact the main reason people say they sign up to drive with Uber is so they can be their own boss.

“Drivers using Uber made average fares of £15 per hour last year after our service fee and, even after costs, the average driver took home well over the National Living Wage.

“We’re also proud to have moved things on from this industry’s cash-in-hand past since every fare is electronically recorded, traceable and transparent.”

‘Dependent contractor’

An employment tribunal last year ruled that Uber drivers were entitled to holiday pay, paid rest breaks and the national minimum wage.

The tribunal described Uber’s claim that its London operation was a network of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common technology platform as “faintly ridiculous”.

The company’s appeal against the employment tribunal decision will be heard later this year.

The tribunal said Uber drivers were not employees in the traditional sense, so were not entitled to the full range of employment rights, but could be classed as workers while they were using the Uber app and so were entitled to the minimum wage.

A government commissioned report by Tony Blair’s former adviser, Matthew Taylor, recommends creating a new category of worker called a “dependent contractor”, who should be given extra protections by firms such as Uber and Deliveroo.

‘Real benefits’

But Ms Long-Bailey said this would not necessarily help them.

“We don’t really need a new status, the court victories that we’ve far have proved that many of these so-called self-employed people who work for the likes of Uber, for example, are workers and should be given adequate protections.

“And I do worry that if this isn’t dealt with in sufficient detail, it could undermine the court rulings of Uber, for example, which it was hoped to have wide-ranging implications for the industry.”

Ms Long-Bailey’s deputy, shadow business minister Chi Onwurah, said she used Uber, but would have to reconsider if workers’ rights were not strengthened.

The Labour MP told Sky News: “These services bring real benefits to people. As a single woman leaving a meeting at 11 o’clock at night, being able to trace and see that your Uber is approaching is a benefit.

“We are not putting the blame on consumers and users of these applications.”

But, she added, “if the regulatory form doesn’t come through then I would find it very hard to use Uber or Deliveroo because it is important that we support strong working rights”.

Nokia ‘regrets’ health app backlash

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Nokia Health Mate has a minimalistic feel

Nokia says it is “regrettable” that problems with its Health Mate fitness-tracking app have frustrated users.

Nokia took over health tech firm Withings in 2016 and recently replaced the Withings Health Mate app with a Nokia-branded version.

Health Mate has been downloaded more than one million times from app stores.

But many users have left one-star reviews, saying the new app removed popular features from the Withings version and had technical issues

The company told the BBC an update would “integrate missing features”.

Before being taken over by Nokia, Withings made internet-connected health products such as weighing scales and air quality monitors, which provided data for the Health Mate app.

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Withings Health Mate let users explore detailed information

“Nokia took over and totally trashed the Withings app in one swoop,” one user, Tony, told the BBC.

“The first release of the app was so full of bugs it was incredible. Their new app is appalling and everyone wants the old one back, which we loved.

“They’ve decimated our investment in quite expensive Withings products.”

A set of smart scales currently retails in the UK for £90 ($116 in the US), direct from Nokia.

Negative reviews on app stores claim a number of issues, including:

  • Difficulty syncing products with the new app
  • Bugs in the app making it difficult to use
  • A new “modern” theme that makes the app less user friendly
  • The removal of features present in the previous Withings app

“[The] previous app from Withings had long-term charts and much more,” wrote one reviewer called Pander.

“This version is a huge degradation in functionality. This is not why I bought this smart scale.”

Nokia told the BBC the Withings Health Mate app had been replaced as part of a transition of Withings products “to the Nokia brand”.

“Regrettably, a few users faced bugs and syncing issues, others were frustrated to find some features from the previous version were not included,” it said.

“We released an update which corrects many of the issues. Very soon we will have another update to integrate the few missing features.

“We will not be satisfied until the final issues have been addressed to deliver the quality user experience consumers have come to expect from Nokia products.”

Petya victims given hope by researchers

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Many reports suggested that screens around the world received this message, indicating a ransomware attack

A security firm says it has managed to decrypt files damaged by the recent Petya ransomware attack, on one infected computer.

The cyber-attack caused havoc for businesses around the globe, but mainly in Ukraine.

The potential solution only works if the ransomware secured administration privileges to the machine.

However Positive Technologies said the concept is currently too technical for most average computer users to run.

“Once you have a proof of concept of how data can be decrypted, the information security community can take this knowledge and develop automatic tools, or simplify the methodology of getting the encryption reversed,” said the firm’s Dan Tara.

The company says in a blog that the creators of the ransomware made mistakes in programming the encryption algorithm Salsa 20 that was used with administration rights.

Mr Tara said his team had not expected to get this result when it started investigating the outbreak.

“Recovering data from a hard drive with this method requires applying heuristics, and may take several hours,” said Head of Reverse Engineering Dmitry Sklyarov.

“The completeness of data recovery depends on many factors (disk size, free space, and fragmentation) and may be able to reach 100% for large disks that contain many standard files, such as OS [Operating Systems] and application components that are identical on many machines and have known values.”

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It is impossible to work out how many victims would have had their administration privileges taken over.

Without this, the ransomware carries out a different method of encryption which is only reversible with a private key obtainable from the criminals behind it.

However the email address that was provided was initially shut down meaning that they were not contactable by victims who chose to try to pay.

‘Cause for hope’

The research team’s finding only works on the recent Petya ransomware and its variants.

“It doesn’t look like a working solution yet but it gives cause for hope,” said security expert Prof Alan Woodward, from the University of Surrey.

Salsa20, which activates when the ransomware has admin privileges, corrupts a device’s Master File Table (MFT), meaning that files are lost forever.

“What they seem to have discovered is that there’s a portion of the MFT that isn’t corrupted and they are suggesting they may have found a way of recovering that,” Prof Woodward added.

“If that is true, that would be a significant finding. It may actually allow people to recover the so-called boot disks, that contain the original operating system, which we were assuming you couldn’t do.”

Earlier this week the perpetrators of the attack appeared to have accessed the ransom payments they raised and made fresh demands.

Consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Nurofen painkillers, Dettol cleaner and Durex condoms, said the attack may have cost it £110m because of lost production and delivery time, the Financial Times reported.

Social media firms urged to tackle online body shaming

Harnaam Kaur

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Campaigner Harnaam Kaur said she received death threats

Internet companies should do more to tackle body shaming online, social media users have told an inquiry into how body image affects young people.

One told Parliament’s annual Youth Select Committee that “so many” young people were suffering from online abuse and feelings of inadequacy.

There should also be greater diversity in the media, the committee heard.

A Facebook and Instagram policy manager said the sites were committed to making sure users had positive experiences.

‘Mean comments’

The Youth Select Committee, which comprises 11 members aged 13 to 18, chose the topic of body image to consider after nearly one million people voted it as one of the top 10 issues in the UK Youth Parliament’s “make your mark” ballot in 2016.

Danny Bowman, who once claimed to be the “world’s first selfie addict”, told the committee he saw “so many young people who are suffering online” from being bullied or body shamed.

He said his own experiences of social media led him to have a mental health problem over his body image and to him being housebound for six months.

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Danny Bowman told the committee he saw “so many young people” being bullied or body-shamed online

Mr Bowman said he thought Instagram – and the images it has of “six packs left, right and centre” – was “becoming more detrimental, especially to young men”.

He added: “I think it translates into the idea of success and failure – a lot of young men are looking at these images and feeling they are inadequate, a failure…

“If we want to solve this problem we have to go directly to social media networks.”

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Harnaam Kaur is a body positivity campaigner

Harnaam Kaur, a body positivity campaigner, said there was a lack of diversity in the media.

Ms Kaur, who has claimed a Guinness world record for her beard, said this had encouraged her to set up an Instagram page.

“That is why Instagram is so important for me, to do photo shoots and show people it is ok to look different.

“I do also feel that companies need to open up their doors to people who do look different and actually stop photo-shopping images…

“The way that women’s bodies and men’s bodies that are being portrayed are not actually their natural form.”

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Stephanie Teboah said it was “difficult to find models of colour”

Stephanie Teboah, a plus-size model, said a “Westernised standard of beauty” dominated the media, and called for a greater variety of ethnicities and body types.

However, she credited Instagram as a site that also hosts “body-positive” content, too, adding that users can curate their feeds to see the content they want to see.

Karim Palant, Facebook and Instagram’s UK public policy manager, told the committee Instagram was “absolutely committed” to making sure its community is “as positive as possible”.

He added that the companies wanted to make sure policies and tools were in place so that “negatives are dealt with as quickly as possible”.

The committee, which next meets on 14 July, will also hear from academics, mental health experts, education professionals, and government officials.

Car parker, Ivory Coast: ‘I’m the boss of this street’

If you live in an African city you will be familiar with car parkers or guards – men who suddenly appear when you park your car. They will watch it for you and guide you out when you leave… for a small fee.

Also guarding their patches closely, they are a noticeable part of the informal economy on the continent and sometimes earn well above the average wage.

The BBC’s Africa Business Report took to the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to meet some of them.

EU and Japan reach free trade deal

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The European Union and Japan have formally agreed an outline free-trade deal.

The agreement paves the way for trading in goods without tariff barriers between two of the world’s biggest economic areas.

However, few specific details are known and a full, workable agreement may take some time.

Two of the most important sectors are Japanese cars and, for Europe, EU farming goods into Japan.

The outline plan was signed in Brussels after a meeting between the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, on the eve of a meeting of the G20 group of leading economies nations in Hamburg.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said the agreement showed the EU’s commitment to world trade: “We did it. We concluded EU-Japan political and trade talks. EU is more and more engaged globally.”

Mr Tusk also said the deal countered the argument put forward by some of those in favour of Brexit that the EU was unable to promote free trade.

US laptop ban lifted on Emirates and Turkish Airlines

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Emirates has said the cabin ban on laptops no longer applies on its flights to the United States.

In March, the US banned laptops and other large electronic devices to and from eight mostly Muslim nations, fearing bombs may be concealed in them.

Emirates, which flies to the US from its Dubai hub, said it worked with US authorities to meet new security rules.

Turkish Airlines said it was also now allowing passengers travelling to the US to take their laptops onboard.

The two airlines join Etihad, which saw the ban lifted on Sunday for its flights from Abu Dhabi after US authorities found it had put tighter security checks in place.

Emirates said in a statement: “Effective immediately, the electronics ban has been lifted for Emirates’ flights from Dubai International Airport to the USA.”

The airline, which flies to 12 US cities from Dubai, thanked customers for “their understanding and patience during the last few months”.

Turkish Airlines said on Twitter that all electronic devices would be allowed on its US flights from Wednesday.

Airport security

Airlines had expressed hope that new guidelines announced last week would pave the way for the lifting of the electronics ban.

The measures include enhanced screening, more thorough vetting of passengers and the wider use of bomb-sniffer dogs in 105 countries.

According to reports in Turkish media, US and UK officials visited Turkey’s main international airport in Istanbul on Tuesday.

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Turkey has recently started using sophisticated tomography imaging devices for X-ray and ultrasound screening at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport.

Under the March rules, devices “larger than a smartphone” were not allowed in the cabins of flights from Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The UK imposed similar rules to the US, but applied them to different countries.

The boss of Turkish Airlines has suggested he expects the UK to lift the ban for his airline soon as well.

In March, the UK government said devices larger than 16.0cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm would not be allowed on direct flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

LeEco chairman ‘has bank accounts frozen over debt’

LeEco co-founder and chief executive Jia Yueting, at a press event in San Francisco.Image copyright
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Jia Yueting, the founder of LeEco, stepped down as chief executive of the company earlier this year but retained the position of chairman.

The billionaire co-founder of struggling Chinese technology giant LeEco has had personal assets frozen by a Shanghai court, state media reports.

Assets worth a combined 1.24bn yuan ($183m; £141m) belonging to Jia Yueting, his wife, and three affiliates have reportedly been blocked.

The ruling follows LeEco’s failure to pay interest due on bank loans taken out to fund its smartphone business.

Neither Mr Jia nor the company has commented on the reports.


LeEco was for a while known as the Netflix of China, a company that streamed content and eventually started making its own original material.

But it then drew comparison with the likes of Apple and Tesla when it began branching out into hardware, including a smart TV, phones and electric cars.

LeEco started selling devices in the US at the tail end of last year, but is now facing a cash crunch and has been forced to slash costs, including making job cuts.

Mr Jia, who resigned as chief executive in May but retains his position as chairman, recently admitted to shareholders that its financial problems were “more severe than we expected”.

In April, a $2bn deal to buy consumer electronics-maker Vizio was called off because of “regulatory headwinds”.

Business problems

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LeEco’s television business Letv launched in the US last year

Meanwhile LeEco’s smartphone unit, Coolpad, has further delayed its 2016 financial results because of audit issues. The company’s unaudited results from May suggest it lost $542m last year.

Coolpad shares listed in Hong Kong have been suspended from trade for three months.

The news of the court freeze on some of LeEco’s assets was welcomed by Philip G Chiu, CEO of US-based marketing firm Beyond Media Global.

He took LeEco business LeTV to court over debts of $1m but claims that it still owes his firm around $100,000.

“LeTV has still not paid all their debt to our company,” he told the BBC.

Drone causes Gatwick Airport disruption

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Five flights were diverted because of the drone flying near the runway

A drone flying close to Gatwick Airport led to the closure of the runway and forced five flights to be diverted.

An airport spokesman said the runway had been closed for two periods of nine minutes and five minutes on Sunday evening after the drone was sighted.

Easyjet said four of its flights had been diverted, while British Airways said one aircraft had been sent to Bournemouth. Other flights had to fly holding patterns as a precaution.

Sussex Police is investigating.

The airport said: “Runway operations at Gatwick were suspended between 18:10 BST and 18:19, and again from 18:36 to 18:41, resulting in a small number of go-arounds and diverts.

“Operations have resumed and the police continue to investigate.”

Channel circles

Passengers have told the BBC how their flights were diverted away from Gatwick.

Craig Jenkins, who was flying with Easyjet from Naples, Italy, said: “We were crossing over the Channel and it started circling.

“It did four or five circles, heading further east, before the captain said we were landing at Stansted.

“First, they said Gatwick was closed because of an incident. Then, shortly after, they said it was a drone.”

Mr Jenkins, who is from Greenwich, south-east London, said passengers were given the choice of disembarking at Stansted or waiting an hour and flying back to Gatwick.

Aborted landing

Niamh Slatter, from Sussex, was flying home from Valencia, Spain, when her BA flight was diverted to Bournemouth.

“We were due to land 15 minutes early, but ended up circling over the south coast for a while,” she said.

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“Our attempted landing at Gatwick was aborted quite late as the drone had been spotted again, so we were told that the flight was being diverted to Bournemouth Airport.”

An Easyjet spokeswoman said three flights would continue on to Gatwick, while passengers from a fourth, diverted to London Southend Airport, would be provided with coach transfers.

“While the circumstances are outside of our control, Easyjet apologises for any inconvenience caused,” she added.

Rules on flying drones

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Media captionDrones should be flown no higher than 400ft

In November 2016, the UK’s drone code was revised and updated to help pilots ensure they fly the gadgets safely.

The revised code turned the five main safety tips into a mnemonic, spelling drone, to make it easier to remember.

  • Don’t fly near airports or airfields
  • Remember to stay below 120m (400ft) and at least 50m (150ft) away from people
  • Observe your drone at all times
  • Never fly near aircraft
  • Enjoy responsibly

UK revises safe flying drone code

Former senior air traffic controller Doug Maclean told BBC News aviation authorities had to “act on the safe side” in incidents involving drones.

“Drones are really very small. They are not designed to be spotted on air traffic radar.”

But he added: “Airports like Gatwick and Heathrow are very busy places, so there are lots of people aware of what a drone looks like.

“As soon as anyone sees anything like that, I am sure there is going to be a very instant report to air traffic control, who would then have to make a judgement on how dangerous the situation was.”

The British Airline Pilots’ Association’s flight safety specialist Steve Landells said the threat of drones flown near aircraft “must be addressed before we see a disaster”.

“We believe a collision, particularly with a helicopter, has the potential to be catastrophic,” he said.

The union has called for compulsory registration of drone users and said new technology should be considered, including a system where the drone transmits enough data for the police to track down the operator.

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The Civil Aviation Authority says drone use has increased significantly (File photo)

In April, the UK Airprox Board, which monitors near-miss incidents, said there had been five such incidents in one month.

This included one on the approach to Edinburgh Airport on 25 November 2016, in which a drone came within 75ft of an aircraft.

In another incident last November, a near-miss involving a passenger jet and more than one drone was reported in the UK for the first time near Heathrow Airport.

How common are near misses involving drones?

There were 70 Airprox reports involving drones coming close to aircraft over the UK in 2016. This is more than double the number for 2015.

There were 33 incidents up to May 2017. An Airprox is the official term for a situation where the distance between aircraft and their relative positions and speed were such that the safety of the aircraft may have been compromised.

Only one drone has actually struck a passenger aircraft. This happened in April 2016 to a British Airways flight approaching Heathrow. The plane, an A320 Airbus carrying 132 passengers and five crew, landed safely.

The Civil Aviation Authority recommends drones be flown at no higher than 400ft. However, the highest Airprox involving a drone was at 12,500ft.

Of the 142 Airprox incidents involving drones recorded since 2010, 40 of them were near to Heathrow. Six of them, up to May, had been near to Gatwick.

  • 50 metres Closest drones are allowed to anyone or anything

  • 70 Near misses involving drones in 2016, more than double the year before

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‘Severe penalties’

The Civil Aviation Authority said there were serious consequences for people who broke the rules when flying drones.

“Drone users have to understand that when taking to the skies they are potentially flying close to one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world.

“[It is] a complex system that brings together all manner of aircraft including passenger aeroplanes, military jets, helicopters, gliders and light aircraft,” a spokesman said.

“It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment.”

Flying in an electric plane

A battery-powered plane that can fly for 30 minutes has taken to the skies.

The “eFusion” has been developed by German engineering firm Siemens, and can reach a top speed of 140mph (225km/h).

The BBC’s transport correspondent Richard Westcott takes a closer look.

Driving a car made from biodegradable materials

A car made from biodegradable natural materials has passed road safety tests in the Netherlands.

TU Ecomotive, a student team from Eindhoven University of Technology, unveiled LINA earlier this year.

The four-seater’s lightweight structure is made from sugar beet and flax which takes 20% of the energy used to produce today’s aluminium or carbon-fibre based cars.

The university says the concept car will undergo a few final adaptations before being allowed on public roads later this month.

BBC Click’s Dan Simmons was the first person outside of the team who has been allowed to take it for a test drive.

Watch BBC Click this weekend for the full report on BBC World News and the BBC News Channel or watch again on BBC iPlayer (UK only).

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

Stormzy and other celebrities tweet bullied school boy

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Stormzy was one of the celebrities to respond to the appeal

A host of celebrities, including British grime and hip hop artist Stormzy, have sent birthday greetings to a young boy who is being bullied.

Chris Hope-Smith, from Leeds, posted on Twitter asking if people could send positive messages to his son, Ollie.

He wrote: “The bully keeps saying to him that everything O has, he has bigger/better/more often.

“I would love someone to tell him he does mean something and bullying is not ok, ever.”

Ollie will celebrate his ninth birthday on 5 July.

More on this story and others from Yorkshire

Responding to the appeal, Stormzy wrote: “Happy birthday Ollie! You’re a lil legend. ❤️⭐️🎉Don’t watch the bullies they always end up being the biggest wastemen later in life.”

Others included TV presenter Jake Humphrey, who recorded a video where he told Ollie to “ignore the haters”, adding “we’ve all been there”.

Simpsons character designer Eric Keyes sent a message to Ollie along with a personalised drawing of Bart Simpson.

Mr Keyes tweeted: “Happy Birthday Ollie from a guy on @TheSimpsons who’s not quite famous but draws a kid who is =) I hope you have an AWESOME day!”

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Eric Keyes

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Eric Keyes, cartoonist and character designer on The Simpsons, sent Ollie a drawing of Bart

Other famous names who sent well-wishes to the schoolboy included:

Many people offered to send Ollie gifts or free tickets for events.

Broadcaster Sara Cox also posted a video message to him.

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Sarah Cox posted a video message to Ollie

Writing on her husband’s twitter account, Ollie’s mother Natalie Hope-Smith said: “I am completely overwhelmed by everyone’s kind thoughts.

“You do not know what this means to me and will to Ollie when we show him. I have been battling with this matter for over a year and am only just now being listened to.

“It is heartbreaking listening to an 8 year old think that he is worthless and ‘shouldn’t be here’.

“I know that we are definitely not the only ones going through this but I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, ‘Thank You’ so much. You really don’t know what this means. Natalie xx”

As well as celebrities, the appeal also attracted a lot of interest from the general public, who all offered messages of support.

Responding to the posts, Mr Hope-Smith said: “I am completely overwhelmed by everyone’s kind thoughts.

“You do not know what this means to me and will to Ollie when we show him.”

The one law of robotics: Humans must flourish

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Could robots harm humans?

The science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote about controlling intelligent machines with the three laws of robotics:

  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
  • A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law

As so often is the case, science fiction has become science fact. A report published by the Royal Society and the British Academy suggests that there should not be three but just one overarching principle to govern the intelligent machines that we will soon be living alongside: “Humans should flourish.”

According to Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser, who co-chairs the Royal Society’s science policy advisory group, human flourishing should be the key to how intelligent systems governed.

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Isaac Asimov laid out some laws for robots

“This was the term that really encapsulated what we wanted to say,” she told BBC News.

“The thriving of people and communities needs to be put first, and we think Asimov’s principles can be subsumed into that.”

The report calls for a new body to ensure intelligent machines serve people rather than control them.

It says that a system of democratic supervision is essential to regulate the development of self-learning systems.

Without it they have the potential to cause great harm, the report says.

It is not warning of machines enslaving humanity, at least not yet.

But when systems that learn and make decisions independently are used in the home and across a range of commercial and public services, there is scope for plenty of bad things to happen.

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In Asimov’s Caves Of Steel, humans lived closely alongside robots

The report calls for safeguards to prioritise the interests of humans over machines.

The development of such systems cannot by governed solely by technical standards. They also have to be imbued with ethical and democratic values, according to Antony Walker, who is deputy chief executive of the lobby group TechUK and another of the report’s authors.

“There are many benefits that will come out of these technologies, but the public has to have the trust and confidence that these systems are being thought through and governed properly,” he said.

The age of Asimov

The report calls for a completely new approach. It suggests a “stewardship body” of experts and interested parties should build an ethical framework for the development of artificial intelligence technologies.

It recommends four high-level principles to promote human flourishing:

  • Protect individual and collective rights and interests
  • Ensure transparency, accountability and inclusivity
  • Seek out good practices and learn from success and failure
  • Enhance existing democratic governance

And the need for a new way to govern machines is urgent. The age of Asimov is already here.

The development of autonomous vehicles, for example, raises questions about how human safety should be prioritised.

What happens in a situation where the machine has to choose between the safety of those in the vehicle and pedestrians?

There is also the issue of determining liability if there is an accident. Was it the fault of the vehicle owner or the machine?

Another example is the emergence of intelligent systems for personalised tuition.

These identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses and teach accordingly.

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Several companies are testing driverless cars

Should such a self-learning system be able to teach without proper guidelines?

How do we make sure that we are comfortable with the way in which the machine is directing the child, just as we are concerned about the way in which a tutor teaches a child?

These issues are not for the technology companies that develop the systems to resolve, they are for all of us.

It is for this reason that the report argues that details of intelligent systems cannot be kept secret for commercial reasons.

They have to be publicly available so that if something starts to goes wrong it can be spotted and put right.

Current regulations focus on personal data.

But they have nothing to say about the data we give away on a daily basis, through tracking of our mobile phones, our purchasing preferences, electricity smart meters and online “likes”.

There are systems that can piece together this public data and build up a personality profile that could potentially be used by insurance companies to set premiums, or by employers to assess suitability for certain jobs.

Such systems can offer huge benefits, but if unchecked we could find our life chances determined by machines.

The key, according to Prof Leyser, is that regulation has to be on a case-by-case basis.

“An algorithm to predict what books you should be recommended on Amazon is a very different thing from using an algorithm to diagnose your disease in a medical situation,” she told the BBC.

“So, it is not sensible to regulate algorithms as a whole without taking into account what it is being used for.”

The Conservative Party promised a digital charter in its manifesto, and the creation of a data use and ethics commission.

While most of the rhetoric by ministers has been about stopping the internet from being used to incite terrorism and violence, some believe that the charter and commission might also adopt some of the ideas put forward in the data governance report.

The UK’s Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock, told the BBC that it was “critical” to get the rules right on how we used data as a society.

“Data governance, and the effective and ethical use of data, are vital for the future of our economy and society,” he said.

“We are committed to continuing to work closely with industry to get this right.”

Fundamentally, intelligent systems will take off only if people trust them and how they are regulated.

Without that, the enormous potential these systems have for human flourishing will never be fully realised.

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Facebook hits two billion users

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Facebook has been criticised for not doing enough to remove terror-related content

More than a quarter of the world’s population now uses Facebook every month, the social network says.

“As of this morning, the Facebook community is now officially two billion people,” founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg posted.

The milestone comes just 13 years after the network was founded by Mr Zuckerberg when he was at Harvard.

He famously dropped out of the university after launching the global social-networking website.

The internet giant announced it had one billion monthly users in October 2012, meaning it has doubled the number of its users in just under five years.

The firm’s continuing growth will confound critics who have long predicted that the social network’s growth would slow down as rivals such as Snapchat stole its users.

Earlier this year, Facebook warned that growth in advertising revenues would slow down.

Nonetheless, Mr Zuckerberg’s ambitions remain huge.

He told USA Today the firm had not made “much fanfare” about hitting the two billion figure because “we still haven’t connected everyone”.

“What we really care about is being able to connect everyone,” he said.

The firm’s rapid growth has put pressure on its ability to moderate violent and illegal content posted on its site.

The most recent high profile incident involved a man in the US posting a video of himself to the site, showing him shooting and killing an elderly man.

Last month Facebook said it was hiring 3,000 extra people to moderate content on its site.

Cash ‘lives on’ after 50 years of ATMs

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Media captionFifty years of the cash machine

Cash will remain a part of our day-to-day lives for decades, the Bank of England’s chief cashier has said on the 50th anniversary of the ATM.

Victoria Cleland said that although the use of notes and coins in transactions is falling, cash is part of all the Bank’s future plans.

She pointed out that 94% of UK adults use cash machines.

It was 50 years ago today that the world’s first ATM was unveiled at a Barclays branch in Enfield, London.

As a tribute to the golden anniversary, Barclays has transformed the modern-day Enfield cash machine into gold.

Ms Cleland said that more than half of UK adults use an ATM at least once a week.

Cash was used in nearly half of all transactions and was also important as a store of value, she added.

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Barclays Bank unveiled its first cash machine in the UK in 1967

Raheel Ahmed, head of customer experience at Barclays, echoed Ms Cleland’s views.

“Even though recent years have seen a huge uptake of digital banking and card payments, cash remains a crucial part of most people’s day-to-day lives – whether it is paying for groceries or doing the office coffee run – and we’re very proud of the role that Barclays has played in the history of the cash machine.”

The first cash machine came about after some hurried signing of contracts, over a pink gin, between Barclays and Scottish inventor John Shepherd-Barron, who died in 2010.

“It struck me there must be a way I could get my own money, anywhere in the world or the UK,” he told the BBC in 2007. “I hit upon the idea of a chocolate bar dispenser, but replacing chocolate with cash.”

All did not go entirely to plan with the first ATMs. When one was installed in Zurich, Switzerland, there was a mysterious malfunction. Eventually, it was found that wires from two intersecting tramlines nearby were interfering with the mechanism.

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Developments mean some modern ATMs look like tablet computers

There are now about 70,000 cash machines across the UK, and 176 million cards in the UK that can be used to withdraw cash at them.

These cards were used to withdraw a total of £180bn from UK cash machines last year.

The latest developments aim to make the ATM a “bank branch in a box”. Manufacturer NCR said its research showed that 80% of the transactions typically completed inside a physical branch could be completed through a video teller at an ATM.

Portugal has the highest proportion of cash machines in western Europe with 1,516 machines per one million residents.

Sweden, typical of a Scandinavian shift towards a cashless society, has the lowest with 333 machines per one million inhabitants.

Parliament hit by ‘sustained’ cyber-attack

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Parliament has been hit by a cyber attack, officials at Westminster say.

The “sustained” hack began on Friday night, prompting officials to disable remote access to the emails of MPs, peers and their staff as a safeguard.

The parliamentary authorities said hackers had mounted a “determined attack” on all user accounts “in an attempt to identify weak passwords”.

Government sources say it appeared the attack has been contained but it will “remain vigilant”.

A parliamentary spokeswoman said they were investigating the attack and liaising with the National Cyber Security Centre.

She said: “We have discovered unauthorised attempts to access accounts of parliamentary networks users…

“Parliament has robust measures in place to protect all of our accounts and systems, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect and secure our network.

“As a precaution we have temporarily restricted remote access to the network.”

‘Not a surprise’

IT services on the parliamentary estate are working normally and a message sent to MPs urges them to be “extra vigilant”.

But a number of MPs have confirmed to the BBC they are not able to access their parliamentary email accounts outside of the Westminster estate.

It comes just over a month after 48 of England’s NHS trusts were hit by a cyber-attack.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “We have seen reports in the last few days of even Cabinet ministers’ passwords being for sale online.

“We know that our public services are attacked so it is not at all surprising that there should be an attempt to hack into parliamentary emails.

“And it’s a warning to everybody, whether they are in Parliament or elsewhere, that they need to do everything possible to maintain their own cyber security.”

The latest attack was publicly revealed by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard on Twitter as he asked his followers to send any “urgent messages” to him by text.

Henry Smith, Tory MP for Crawley, later tweeted: “Sorry no parliamentary email access today – we’re under cyber attack from Kim Jong Un, (Vladimir) Putin or a kid in his mom’s basement or something…”

The government’s National Security Strategy said in 2015 that the threat from cyber-attacks from both organised crime and foreign intelligence agencies was one of the “most significant risks to UK interests”.

The National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of intelligence agency GCHQ, started its operations in October last year.

The National Crime Agency said it was working with the NCSC but the centre was “leading the operational response”.

Imagination Technologies put up for sale amid Apple dispute

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Apple uses Imagination’s technology in its iPhones

UK chip designer Imagination Technologies – which is in dispute with Apple, its largest customer – has put itself up for sale.

Shares in the company more than halved in April when Imagination said that Apple was to stop using its technology.

The US company uses the UK firm’s chip technology in its iPhones, iPads, and iPods under a licensing agreement.

Imagination said it had received interest from suitors in recent weeks so had begun a formal sale process.

It added it was now in preliminary talks with potential bidders.

In April, Imagination said that Apple, which accounts for about half of Imagination’s revenues, was planning to stop using its technology within “15 months to two years”.

At the time, it questioned whether Apple would be able to develop its own computer chip designs without breaching Imagination’s patents.

Last month, Imagination announced it had started a dispute resolution procedure with Apple over licensing payments.

In its latest update, the company said it remained “in dispute” with Apple.

Separately, Imagination said the sale process for its MIPS and Ensigma businesses – which was announced in May – was “progressing well”, with indicative proposals received for both units.

Uber chief executive Kalanick resigns

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Uber boss Travis Kalanick has resigned as chief executive after pressure from shareholders.

Mr Kalanick will remain on the board of the firm, however.

His resignation comes after a review of practices at the firm and scandals including complaints of sexual harassment.

Last week he said he was taking an indefinite leave of absence following the sudden death of his mother in a boating accident.

‘Bold decision’

Five major Uber investors demanded Mr Kalanick’s immediate resignation in a letter on Tuesday, the New York Times said.

Mr. Kalanick reportedly said: “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

Uber’s board said in a statement: “Travis has always put Uber first. This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber.

“By stepping away, he’s taking the time to heal from his personal tragedy while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber’s history. We look forward to continuing to serve with him on the board.”

‘Uphill climb’

Dan Primack, business editor of the Axios news service, was one of the first to report the investor demands for Mr Kalanick to go.

Mr Primack said a group of investors, but particularly Bill Gurley of venture capitalist firm Benchmark, had put pressure on Mr Kalanick to resign.

“It’s important to note: Travis controlled the board in terms of votes, so really, it was a vey big uphill climb for [Mr] Gurley and the other investors to get this done,” Mr Primack said.

Uber’s future prospects were now “pretty bright”, Mr Primack added.

The firm has been searching for a chief operating officer, but now can seek out Fortune 500 chief executives to take over the top spot, he said.


The ride-hailing company has had a series of recent controversies, including the departure of other high-level executives.

Eric Alexander, the former head of Uber’s Asia-Pacific business, left after a report that he had obtained the medical records of a woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014.

Mr Alexander reportedly shared them with Mr Kalanick, senior vice-president Emil Michael and others.

Mr Alexander was fired earlier this month, and Mr Michael later left Uber.

Board member David Bonderman made a sexist remark at a meeting about workplace practice recommendations last week and then resigned as a director.

In February Uber said it was investigating “abhorrent” sexual harassment claims made by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler.

This month Uber said it had fired more than 20 staff and had taken action against others following a review of more than 200 HR complaints that included harassment and bullying.

There has also been a lawsuit from Google’s parent company, Alphabet, over alleged theft of trade secrets related to driverless cars.

Mexico ‘spied on journalists, lawyers and activists’

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Journalist Carmen Aristegui is among those allegedly targeted by the government

Several prominent journalists and activists in Mexico have filed a complaint accusing the government of spying on them by hacking their phones.

The accusation follows a report in the New York Times that says they were targeted with spyware meant to be used against criminals and terrorists.

The newspaper says messages examined by forensic analysts show the software was used against government critics.

A Mexican government spokesman “categorically” denied the allegations.

The report says that the software, known as Pegasus, was sold to Mexican federal agencies by Israeli company NSO Group on the condition that it only be used to investigate criminals and terrorists.

The software can infiltrate smartphones and monitor calls, texts and other communications, the New York Times said. It can also activate a phone’s microphone or camera, effectively turning the device into a personal bug.

But instead of being used to track suspected criminals, the targets allegedly included investigative journalists, anti-corruption activists and even lawyers.

Nine people have now filed a criminal complaint. At a news conference in Mexico City, journalist Carmen Aristegui accused the state of criminal activity.

“The agents of the Mexican state, far from doing what they should be doing legally, have used our resources, our taxes, our money to commit serious crimes,” she said.

The alleged cases

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The software was developed by the Israeli NSO Group

  • Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Centre: One of the most respected human rights groups in Mexico, it has looked into the disappearance and suspected massacre of 43 students in 2014 and other high profile cases, including a military raid that left 22 dead in 2014. Its executive director and two other senior executives allegedly received infected messages
  • Aristegui Noticias: Award-winning journalist Carmen Aristegui, who also hosts a daily programme on CNN en Español, has reported on suspected cases of corruption and conflict of interest, including a scandal involving the wife of President Enrique Peña Nieto acquiring a $7m (£5.5m) house from a government contractor. Two members of her investigative team and her under-age son allegedly received some 50 messages
  • Carlos Loret de Mola: A popular journalist at leading TV network Televisa, he allegedly received several messages containing the software
  • Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO): It has led efforts for anti-corruption legislation. Two senior members were allegedly targeted.

A spokesman for President Enrique Peña Nieto rejected the allegations, saying that the government carries out intelligence work against the organised crime and threats to the national security in accordance with the country’s laws, but that it does not include journalists or activists.

“The government categorically denies that any of its members carries out surveillance or interference in communications of defenders of human rights, journalists, anti-corruption activists or any other person without prior judicial authorization,” a spokesman told the BBC.

Airbus unveils ‘more efficient’ A380 jumbo

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Airbus says its new wing design will improve aerodynamics

Airbus has unveiled plans to upgrade the world’s biggest passenger jet, promising greater fuel efficiency and room for more seats.

The A380Plus, which was announced ahead of the Paris Airshow, will boast a new wing design intended to improve aerodynamics.

Airbus also said the cabin had been optimised to allow up to 80 extra seats “with no compromise on comfort”.

The move has been seen as way of boosting flagging sales of the A380.

There has been a dearth of orders for the plane as more airlines opt for smaller twin-engine jets, which cost less to fly and maintain.

The European plane maker said the new version would burn up to 4% less fuel thanks to its new winglets, which are designed to reduce drag.

It will also have an increased maximum take-off weight and need less regular maintenance checks.

Airbus said that along with other enhancements, the plane would cut costs for airlines by 13% per seat.

Sales chief John Leahy said the plane would offer “better economics and improved operational performance”.

Five robots that are changing everything

From robot simians that can clean up nuclear accidents, to powered exoskeletons that enable you to lift huge objects, robotic technologies are developing incredibly quickly. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, chief engineer at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks us through five robots that are changing the world.

Amazon to buy Whole Foods for $13.7bn

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Online retail giant Amazon is buying Whole Foods in a $13.7bn (£10.7bn) deal that marks its biggest push into traditional retailing yet.

Amazon, which has long eyed the grocery business, will buy the upmarket supermarket for $42 a share.

Investors greeted the deal as game-changing for the industry, sending shares of rival grocers plunging.

But Whole Foods, which had been under pressure, climbed.

Founded in 1978 in Texas, Whole Foods was a pioneer of the move towards natural and organic foods.

It has grown to more than 460 stores in the US, Canada and the UK, and employs about 87,000 people.

Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said: “Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy.

“Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

‘Maximise value’

Whole Foods has faced dissatisfaction from investors, amid falling same-store sales and increased competition. Last month, the company named a new chief financial officer and new board members.

In April, activist investor Jana Partners called the firm’s shares undervalued, noting “chronic underperformance”.

The price being paid by Amazon marks a 27% premium to the level Whole Foods’ shares closed at on Thursday. The $13.7bn value includes assumption of the grocer’s debt.

The takeover deal – the biggest in Amazon’s history – is expected to be completed in the second half of the year, pending approval by shareholders and anti-trust regulators.

Whole Foods boss John Mackey said: “This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers.”

The Whole Foods brand will continue. Mr Mackey is expected to stay on as chief executive.

‘Inherent logic’

Whole Foods stock soared 29% on the news. Amazon shares closed up 2.4%.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said the deal should give the grocer financial breathing room, while making it more competitive online and improving its supply chain logistics.

The takeover also makes Amazon an instant player in the grocery industry, where it has operated at the fringes since launching its food delivery service Amazon Fresh in Seattle in 2007.

Whole Foods and Amazon were staying quiet on Friday about how they might introduce technology to stores, merge their supply chains, or cross-sell Amazon products.

Brendan Witcher, principal analyst at Forrester Research in Boston, said any changes are further down the road.

But that didn’t stop instant speculation about what changes might be coming. Possibilities include:

Lower prices? Amazon has a long history of deferring profits in favour of winning customers with low prices. It could try a similar strategy at Whole Foods, now knocked by some as “Whole Paycheck”.

Techie shopping? Amazon is also interested in how technology can make shopping more efficient. The firm’s Alexa robot maintains shopping lists and Amazon is testing a convenience store in Seattle that operates without check-out lines.

“There is an inherent logic in the move which, in our view, brings benefits to both businesses,” Mr Saunders wrote.

‘Potentially terrifying’

Shares of other supermarket chains took a beating. The industry has already seen significant consolidation, with smaller players wiped out.

Kroger shares fell more than 9 %, Target plunged 5% and Costco Wholesale Corp. dropped about 7%.

Walmart, which announced its own $310m deal to acquire the online clothing company Bonobos, slid 4.7%.

The reaction spread to companies in Europe. Dutch retailer Ahold Delhaize fell nearly 10%.

Mr Saunders said the deal is “potentially terrifying” for other companies.

“Although Amazon has been a looming threat to the grocery industry, the shadow it has cast has been pale and distant,” Mr Saunders wrote. “Today that changed.”

NHS cyber-attack was ‘launched from North Korea’

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GCHQ can detect the work of hackers around the globe

British security officials believe that hackers in North Korea were behind the cyber-attack that crippled parts of the NHS and other organisations around the world last month, the BBC has learned.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) led the international investigation.

Security sources have told the BBC that the NCSC believes that a hacking group known as Lazarus launched the attack.

The same group is believed to have targeted Sony Pictures in 2014.

The Sony hack came as the company planned to release the movie The Interview, a satire about the North Korean leadership starring Seth Rogen. The movie was eventually given a limited release after an initial delay.

The same group is also thought to have been behind the theft of money from banks.

NHS hit

In May, ransomware called WannaCry swept across the world, locking computers and demanding payment for them to be unlocked. The NHS in the UK was particularly badly hit.

Officials in Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) began their own investigation and concluded their assessment in recent weeks.

The ransomware did not target Britain or the NHS specifically, and may well have been a money-making scheme that got out of control, particularly since the hackers do not appear to have retrieved any of the ransom money as yet.

Although the group is based in North Korea the exact role of the leadership in Pyongyang in ordering the attack is less clear.

Detective work

Private sector cyber-security researchers around the world began picking apart the code to try to understand who was behind the attack soon after.

Adrian Nish, who leads the cyber threat intelligence team at BAE, saw overlaps with previous code developed by the Lazarus group.

“It seems to tie back to the same code-base and the same authors,” Nish says. “The code-overlaps are significant.”

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The WannaCry ransomware has been linked to a North Korean hacking group.

Private sector cyber security researchers reverse engineered the code but the British assessment by the NCSC – part of the intelligence agency GCHQ – is likely to have been made based on a wider set of sources.

America’s NSA has also more recently made the link to North Korea but its assessment is not thought to have been based on as deep as an investigation as the UK, partly because the US was not hit as hard by the incident.

Officials say they have not seen any significant evidence supporting other possible culprits.

Central bank hack

North Korean hackers have been linked to money-making attacks in the past – such as the theft of $81m from the central bank of Bangladesh in 2016.

This sophisticated attack involved making transfers through the Swift payment system which, in some cases, were then laundered through casinos in the Philippines.

“It was one of the biggest bank heists of all time in physical space or in cyberspace,” says Nish, who says further activity has been seen in banks in Poland and Mexico.

The Lazarus group has also been linked to the use of ransomware – including against a South Korean supermarket chain.

Other analysts say they saw signs of North Korea investigating the bitcoin method of payment in recent months.


The May 2017 attack was indiscriminate rather than targeted. Its spread was global and may have only been slowed thanks to the work of a British researcher who was able to find a “kill switch” to slow it down.

The attacks caused huge disruption in the short term but they may have also been a strategic failure for the group behind it.

Researchers at Elliptic, a UK-based company which tracks bitcoin payments, say they have seen no withdrawals out of the wallets into which money was paid, although people are still paying in to them.

Those behind the attack may not have expected it to have spread as fast as it did.

Once they realised that their behaviour was drawing global attention, the risks of moving the money may have been seen as too high given the relatively small amount involved, leaving them with little to show for their work.

The revelation of the link to North Korea will raise difficult questions about what can be done to respond or deter such behaviour in the future.

Uber chief Travis Kalanick may face bumpy ride

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Travis Kalanick is Uber’s chief executive

Uber’s chief executive could be forced to take a leave of absence under changes being considered by the firm, reports say.

The company’s board met on Sunday but has not released any details on Mr Kalanick’s future yet.

The board also voted on a review of its policies and corporate culture by former US Attorney General Eric Holder.

The review was instigated in February after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler made claims of sexual harassment.

Uber confirmed to the BBC that “the board unanimously voted to adopt all the recommendations of the Holder Report. The recommendations will be released to the employees on Tuesday.”

It has not been confirmed what those recommendations are. It is possible that Mr Kalanick could take time off from Uber and then return to a role with less authority, or remain as chief executive but face more scrutiny, the Reuters news agency reported.

The New York Times reported that one of Mr Holder’s recommendations was that Emil Michael, Uber’s senior vice-president of business and a close confidant of Mr Kalanick, should leave the company.

The board meeting comes just days after Uber said it had fired more than 20 people, and was taking other actions against staff, for issues including sexual harassment and bullying.

‘Grow up’

If Mr Michael does leave it would be the latest high-profile departure from Uber.

Last week Uber’s finance chief, Gautam Gupta, said he was leaving, following New York general manager, Josh Mohrer, and the head of Uber’s self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski, out of the door.

Mr Kalanick has earned a reputation as an abrasive leader and was criticised earlier this year after being caught on video berating an Uber driver.

He said in response to the video: “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”

Uber board member Arianna Huffington said in March that Mr Kalanick needed to change his leadership style from that of a “scrappy entrepreneur” to be more like a “leader of a major global company”.

The board has been seeking to recruit a chief operating officer to assist the chief executive.

Some investors are concerned at the power Mr Kalanick has over Uber because of the number of voting shares he controls.

San Francisco-based Uber is valued at nearly $70bn (£55bn) but is yet to make a profit.

News and sports websites ‘vulnerable to attack’

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Many news and sport websites do not use secure HTTPS connections

News and sports websites have some of the lowest levels of security adoption, a study has suggested.

A team of cyber-security experts looked at the security protocols used by the top 500 sites in various industries and online sectors.

They found that fewer than 10% of news and sports websites used basic security protocols such as HTTPS and TLS.

Even those that do are not always using the “latest or strongest protocols”, one of the study’s authors said.

“As time goes by, all encryption gets weaker because people find ways around it,” Prof Alan Woodward, a cyber-security expert at the University of Surrey, told the BBC.

“We tested the University of Surrey’s website using a site called Security Headers a couple of weeks ago and it got an A,” he explained, “but it’s only a C now.”

Shopping and gaming

The research, published in the Journal of Cyber Security Technology, shows that some sectors seem much more security-conscious than others.

The websites of computer and technology companies and financial organisations showed a much higher level of adoption than shopping and gaming sites, for example.

“In the financial sector, almost every one of the sites we looked at had encrypted links”, Prof Woodward said, “but even in retail the adoption of the very latest standards is low.”

A quarter of the shopping sites studied were using Transport Layer Security (TLS), which offers tools including digital certificates, remote passwords, and a choice of ciphers to encrypt traffic between a website and its visitors.

But among news and sport websites fewer than 8% were found to be using the protocol.

Among those that did, many failed to make use of some of the strongest tools available, such as HSTS, which automatically pushes users accessing an unsecured version of a website on to the encrypted version instead.

‘Click on the padlock’

“It’s like news and sport content providers don’t value the security of their content,” Prof Woodward said.

“They’re leaving themselves vulnerable to attacks like cross-site scripting, where an attacker can pretend something’s come from a website when it hasn’t.”

But Prof Woodward warned against putting too much faith in sites that appear to have the most up-to-date and comprehensive security protocols in place.

“People assume that because they’re using TLS they’re having a secure conversation, but there’s no guarantee about who they’re having that secure conversation with,” he explained.

“Some of those spoof sites are using more up-to-date security than the genuine sites. You’ve got to click on that padlock and check who it is you’re talking to.”

E3 2017: Gamers head to LA to play

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Thousands of people attend E3 every year

Gamers from around the globe are heading to Los Angeles for the E3 video games showcase, which lays out what players can expect in the year ahead.

E3 is traditionally an industry-only event, but in recent years some studios have held their own showcases and broadcast them to fans online.

This year, for the first time in its 24-year history, 15,000 video game fans will be allowed to attend too.

One analyst said it was a sign of E3 adapting for modern times.

“E3 originally was a retail conference, about connecting buyers with the publishers,” said Piers Harding-Rolls of the consultancy IHS Markit.

“The industry has changed significantly since then, so E3 has to move with the times.

“It’s a process to make it much more publicly available, and it’s a good move – it keeps it relevant.”

E3 begins on Tuesday 13 July – but many games studios including Microsoft and Sony hold their own events a little earlier.

Microsoft aims ultra-high

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Microsoft’s Phil Spencer announced Project Scorpio in 2016

Last year, Microsoft announced it was working on “the most powerful console ever”, code-named Project Scorpio.

The company has already described the computing power of the device, which it says will be capable of playing ultra-high definition 4K games – but this could be the first time we see the device and hear what it will be called.

“This will re-establish their credentials with the gamers who want the highest graphical capability,” said Mr Harding-Rolls.

“I’m expecting it to be more expensive than the PS4 Pro, so it’s probably not going to sell as strongly – but will give Microsoft a boost towards the end of the year.”

Nintendo expands its offer

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Nintendo says Switch is its fastest-selling console

Nintendo says its new Switch console is off to a promising start, with about three million sold, making it the company’s fastest-selling device.

The launch was buoyed by the highly-anticipated Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, which Nintendo dedicated its entire E3 exhibition to in 2016.

To keep momentum, the Japanese games-maker will be showing off multiplayer games such as Splatoon 2, Arms and Pokken Tournament DX.

However, many players are still hopeful that Nintendo will announce some surprises – such as the first full Pokemon game for the Switch.

Virtual reality

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Sony has sold a million PS VR headsets

Sony says sales of its virtual reality kit for the PlayStation 4 have exceeded expectations, with more than a million people picking up a PS VR headset.

But the challenge for all headset developers is to show off compelling games that will encourage more people to invest in the costly kit.

“It’s a key focus for Sony, because it’s different from what Microsoft is offering with Xbox,” Mr Harding-Rolls told the BBC.

“There have been some good launch titles, such as the VR mode on Resident Evil which was very well received.

“Is spread by word of mouth because it was so impressive and frankly scary – we need more of that, big brands and big titles.”

Where to watch the big announcements

Saturday 10 June

Electronic Arts – 20:00 BST (19:00 GMT, 12:00 PDT)

Sunday 11 June

Microsoft – 22:00 BST (21:00 GMT, 14:00 PDT)

Monday 12 June

Bethesda – 05:00 BST (04:00 GMT, Sunday 11 June 21:00 PDT)

PC Gaming Show – 18:00 BST (17:00 GMT, 10:00 PDT)

Ubisoft– 21:00 BST (20:00 GMT, 13:00 PDT)

Tuesday 13 June

Sony – 02:00 BST (01:00 GMT, Monday 18:00 PDT)

Nintendo – 17:00 BST (16:00 GMT, 09:00 PDT)

Softbank buys robot-maker Boston Dynamics from Alphabet

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Media captionVideo of the Atlas robot was released last year

Shares of Japan’s Softbank have surged to their highest in nearly two decades after the firm bought robot-maker Boston Dynamics from Google’s Alphabet.

Boston Dynamics, known for its robots such as Atlas and BigDog, has struggled to commercialise its inventions and was put up for sale more than a year ago.

Softbank also announced it is buying robotics group Schaft.

The terms of the deals were not disclosed. Softbank shares rose by more than 7% in Tokyo.

Softbank began as a Japanese telecoms company but moved into robotics and developed the human-like Pepper in 2014.

Founder Masayoshi Son has since built the Japanese firm into a massive technology conglomerate through some big deals.

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Softbank founder Masayoshi Son

They range from buying UK chip firm ARM Holdings for £24bn ($32bn), investing $1bn in satellite startup OneWeb, to setting up a venture fund with Saudi Arabia.

Mr Son is known to have an eye for potentially transformative industries and trends. He was an early investor in Alibaba and saw the potential in e-commerce many others did.

Sony sells one million VR headsets

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Sony said sales had exceeded expectations

Sony has sold more than one million virtual reality (VR) headsets, the company has said.

President of Sony Interactive Entertainment Atsushi Morita said sales had “exceeded our expectations”.

The headset, at $399 (£308), is cheaper than rival devices from Facebook and HTC.

According to research company IDC, about two million VR headsets were shipped worldwide in the first three months of 2017.

Mr Morita has high hopes for the technology.

He said: “I believe that VR technology is the greatest innovation since the birth of television.

“VR allows you to travel to World Heritage Sites or to space while staying at home.

“It’s like a time machine or a door to anywhere.”

There are two reasons why Sony is currently leading on VR, according to Piers Harding-Rolls, a gaming analyst at research company IHS Markit.

“Sony PlayStation VR is leading sales in the high-end sector because it is cheaper, but also because of Sony’s addressable market of 60 million PS4 consoles,” he said.

Facebook’s Oculus Rift currently has a $599 price-tag, while HTC’s Vive is even more expensive at $799.

Mr Harding-Rolls said VR was still a niche market but developers were beginning to come up with some interesting and immersive content such as the VR mode on the latest Resident Evil title, which he described as a “scary proposition”.

“I’m waiting for content that is truly transformational and original to VR,” he said.

“There have been games that hint at VR’s potential, but there is still more to come I’m sure.

“The introduction of peripherals with haptic feedback is a step forward, so it’s likely we will continue to get games such as first person shooters being made that use these new technologies, but I’d also like to see more exploration based titles, which build on the immersion delivered by VR.”

Uber fires 20 staff after harassment investigation

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Uber has fired more than 20 people, and is taking other actions against staff, after a harassment investigation.

The taxi-app firm said the sackings related to sexual harassment, bullying and issues about poor company culture.

Uber has been under fire over its treatment of women staff since a former employee wrote a scathing blog post about her experience.

It led to two investigations and the uncovering of 215 complaints about harassment and other allegations.

Uber has struggled with a series of controversies in recent months, including a backlash over aggressive corporate tactics and a lawsuit from Google-owner Alphabet over allegedly stolen technology for self-driving cars.

Several high-placed executives resigned amid the turbulence, including a former head of engineering, who had failed to disclose harassment complaints at his former employer.

Chief executive Travis Kalanick’s filmed argument with an Uber driver over falling rates also fuelled criticism, leading him to say that he needed “leadership help”.

Susan Fowler, who wrote the critical blog post about Uber, said the company had ignored her complaints of sexual harassment. Widely shared, the blog prompted Mr Kalanick to launch the investigations.

Does Silicon Valley have a sexism problem?

Uber’s mess reaches beyond sexism – and Silicon Valley

Law firm Perkins Coie reviewed 215 claims, which included sexual harassment and discrimination as well as other complaints, an Uber spokeswoman said.

The firm recommended no action in 100 of them; 57 remain under review, while others have received warnings or are in training, she said.

Some of those fired held senior positions, she said.

The 215 claims investigated were broken down as follows:

Discrimination, 54; Sexual harassment, 47; Unprofessional behaviour, 45; Bullying, 33; Other harassment, 19; Retaliation, 13; Physical security 3; Wrongful dismissal 1.

Action taken and cases under review:

Staff fired, 20; Staff put in training, 31; Final warnings, 7; Claims still under review, 57.

Uber has also appointed Eric Holder, who served as attorney general under former US president Barack Obama, to investigate the company’s broader culture.

The findings of that report have been turned over to the board and recommendations are expected to be made public next week.

Some changes are already in place.

Uber announced the hiring of two women to high profile positions this week.

Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor, will serve as a senior vice president for leadership and strategy, working with the head of human resources Liane Hornsey. Ms Hornsey is herself relatively new, starting at the company in January.

Bozoma Saint John, a former marketing executive at Apple, is also joining Uber as chief brand officer.

Uber employs more than 12,000 people globally.

About 36% of the workforce is female, according to a diversity report the firm published earlier this year. Women hold about 15% of the technology positions.

By Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco

It goes without saying that this issue doesn’t go away with these firings.

Uber has major questions still to answer – some of them will hopefully be addressed when more details of the report are made public.

Most troubling is why Uber’s own internal HR measures weren’t thorough or fair enough to see that the actions of 20 employees warranted dismissal.

Instead it took a brave former employee – and then an expensive, lengthy investigation – to get to that point.

So as well as detailing what it has done to address those existing complaints, Uber will now have to be very clear about how it will handle such issues in future.

Crucially, the lessons from this report should not be heeded by Uber alone. As many people have pointed out to me since we began reporting this story, this is a problem that affects the technology industry across the board.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

Hands-on with the new iPad Pro and iOS11

A hands-on with the new iPad Pro and some of the new features being added to Apple’s operating system, iOS. The new update will come this autumn. The BBC’s North American technology reporter Dave Lee checked it out at Apple’s developers’ conference in San Joe, California.

London attack: PM’s condemnation of tech firms criticised

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Prime Minister Theresa May has been warned that her promise to tighten regulation on tech firms after the London attacks will not work.

Mrs May said areas of the internet must be closed because tech giants provided a “safe space” for terrorist ideology.

But the Open Rights Group said social media firms were not the problem, while an expert in radicalisation branded her criticism “intellectually lazy”.

Twitter, Facebook and Google said they were working hard to fight extremism.

Google (which owns Youtube) Facebook (which owns WhatsApp) and Twitter were among tech companies already facing pressure to tackle extremist content – pressure that intensified on Sunday.

Mrs May said: “We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed.

“Yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies… provide.”

On ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said an international agreement was needed for social media companies to do more to stop radicalisation.

“One (requirement) is to make sure they do more to take down the material that is radicalising people,” Mrs Rudd said.

“And secondly, to help work with us to limit the amount of end-to-end encryption that otherwise terrorists can use,” she said.

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But the Open Rights Group, which campaigns for privacy and free speech online, warned that politicians risked pushing terrorists’ “vile networks” into the “darker corners of the web” by more regulation.

“The internet and companies like Facebook are not the cause of hate and violence, but tools that can be abused.

“While governments and companies should take sensible measures to stop abuse, attempts to control the internet is not the simple solution that Theresa May is claiming,” Open Rights said.

Professor Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre For The Study Of Radicalisation at King’s College London, was also critical of Mrs May.

He wrote on Twitter: “Big social media platforms have cracked down on jihadist accounts, with result that most jihadists are now using end-to-end encrypted messenger platforms e.g. Telegram.

“This has not solved problem, just made it different… moreover, few people (are) radicalised exclusively online. Blaming social media platforms is politically convenient but intellectually lazy.”

However, Dr Julia Rushchenko, a London-based research fellow at the Henry Jackson Centre for Radicalisation and Terrorism, told the BBC that Mrs May was right, and that more could be done by tech giants to root out such content.

She felt that the companies erred on the side of privacy, not security. “We all know that social media companies have been a very helpful tool for hate preachers and for extremists,” Dr Rushchenko said.

The online world had been a recruiting aid for foreign fighters, and social media needed “stricter monitoring”, both by government agencies and by third party groups that have been created to flag up extremist content.

‘No place on our platform’

However, the major social media firms said on Sunday that they were working hard to rid their networks of terrorist activity and support.

Facebook said: “Using a combination of technology and human review, we work aggressively to remove terrorist content from our platform as soon as we become aware of it – and if we become aware of an emergency involving imminent harm to someone’s safety, we notify law enforcement.”

Google said it was “committed to working in partnership with the government and NGOs to tackle these challenging and complex problems, and share the government’s commitment to ensuring terrorists do not have a voice online”.

It said it was already working on an “international forum to accelerate and strengthen our existing work in this area” and had invested hundreds of millions of pounds to fight abuse on its platforms.

Twitter said “terrorist content has no place on” its platform.

“We continue to expand the use of technology as part of a systematic approach to removing this type of content.

“We will never stop working to stay one step ahead and will continue to engage with our partners across industry, government, civil society and academia.”

Analysis: Joe Lynam, BBC business correspondent

Calling for technology companies to “do more” has become one of the first responses by politicians after terror attacks in their country.

Theresa May’s comments on that subject were not new – although the tone was.

She has already proposed a levy on internet firms, as well as sanctions on firms for failing to remove illegal content, in the Conservative party manifesto published three weeks ago.

Given that 400 hours of videos are uploaded onto Youtube every minute, and that there are 2 billion active Facebook users, clamping down on sites which encourage or promote terror needs a lot of automatic detection – as well as the human eye and judgement.

Technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook are all part of an international panel designed to weed out and prevent terror being advocated worldwide.

That involves digitally fingerprinting violent images and videos as well as sharing a global database of users who may be extremist.

US can ask visa applicants for social media history

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Visa applicants to the US may be asked for social media usernames, email addresses and phone numbers

The Trump administration has approved plans to ask US visa applicants for details of their social media use.

Consular officials can now ask for social media usernames going back five years via a new questionnaire.

It also allows authorities to request email addresses, phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information.

This can be requested when “more rigorous national security security vetting” is needed, a State Department official told Reuters.

According to reports, the State Department expects that about 0.5% of visa applicants will be given the questionnaire.

Critics have argued that the checks could lead to extended, fruitless lines of inquiry or the collection of personal information not relevant to security checks.

Providing the information is voluntary, though the questionnaire informs applicants that “individuals who […] do not provide all the requested information may be denied a US visa”.

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Providing the information is voluntary – but not doing so may cause a visa application to be rejected

A proposal to request “social media identifiers” for travellers using the visa waiver program was put forward by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last year.

This came into force for some visa waiver travellers in December 2016.

The new questionnaire applies specifically to visa applicants not using the visa waiver program.

Evaluation of social media activity is increasingly common, though US employers in Maryland and Illinois were recently banned – thanks to state-level legislation – from asking job applicants for their social media logins.

Google to let publishers charge users for ad-blockers

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Google will let publishers ask people who use ad-blockers to either enable advertising or make a payment to view content without ads.

“Funding Choices” will roll out first in North America, UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, Google said in a blog.

Google is also working on an ad-blocker of its own, which will function in its Chrome browser.

That will block specific adverts that do not meet Google’s standards.

Ad blocking programs are designed to protect consumers from intrusive web ads that slow down browsers and vacuum up personal data.

Ad-blockers take “a big toll” on publishers and producers who rely on advertising revenue, said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice-president in Ads and Commerce.

“We believe these changes will ensure all content creators, big and small, can continue to have a sustainable way to fund their work with online advertising,” he wrote.

Google is part of the Coalition for Better Ads, a group which also includes News Corp, Facebook and Unilever, and is dedicated to “improving users’ experience” of online advertising.

Recent figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) suggested that 22% of UK adults use an ad-blocking service online.

In 2016 the service Ad Blocker Plus claimed to have more than 100 million active users worldwide.

ViaSat-2: Satellite goliath goes into orbit

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The Ariane lifted away from its pad during a tropical rain shower

The most powerful commercial broadband satellite ever built has just gone into orbit on an Ariane rocket.

ViaSat-2, which is to be stationed above the Americas, has a total throughput capacity of about 300 gigabits per second.

The spacecraft was part of a dual payload on the Ariane flight. It was joined by Eutelsat 172B, a UK/French-built platform to go over the Pacific.

Both satellites will be chasing the rampant market for wi-fi on aeroplanes.

Airlines are currently in a headlong rush to equip their fleets with connections that will allow passengers to use their mobile devices in mid-air.

More than 6,000 commercial aircraft worldwide were offering an onboard wi-fi service in 2016; it is expected more than 17,000 will be doing so by 2021.

In-flight internet has traditionally had a terrible reputation, but there is a feeling now that the latest technology really can give passengers a meaningful slice of bandwidth and at a competitive price.

Inmarsat rides SpaceX Falcon

Intelsat rolls out next-gen system

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Artwork: ViaSat-2 will be positioned 36,000km above the equator at 69 degrees West

The Ariane left the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana at 20:45 local time, Thursday (23:45 GMT), ejecting the satellites into their transfer orbits about half an hour later.

Both must now get themselves into their final positions. Noteworthy is the fact that ViaSat-2 and 172B will be using electric engines to do this.

These work by accelerating and expelling ions at high speed. The process provides less thrust than a standard chemical engine, but saves substantially on propellant mass.

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Eutelsat-172B is the first satellite from Airbus to use all-electric propulsion for orbit-raising and station-keeping

That saving can be traded to get either a lower-priced launch ticket, or to pack even greater capacity into the satellite’s communications payload for no additional weight.

The US, Boeing-built ViaSat-2 uses a mix of chemical and electric propulsion, but Eutelsat’s platform is all-electric – the first such design to come from Europe’s biggest space manufacturer, Airbus.

ViaSat-2 will be providing broadband services to fixed customers across North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and a portion of northern South America.

But the satellite is also configured to service planes and ships, and in particular it is looking to grab a significant share of business out over the Atlantic.

The aviation sector currently is a key battleground for satellite operators; it is where they are seeing double-digit growth.

In the US, working with airlines such as JetBlue, ViaSat has already found success through its existing high-throughput ViaSat-1 spacecraft.

With the extra capacity on ViaSat-2, it aims to do better still.

“We think people want to use their devices in the air the way they do on the ground; that’s the bet we’ve made,” said ViaSat Chief Operating Officer Rick Baldridge.

“JetBlue delayed their in-flight wi-fi offering, waiting for us, and now they’re giving it away for free and we’re providing 12 megabits per second to every seat, including streaming video,” he told BBC News.

ViaSat-2’s “footprint” touches the western coast of Europe, but aeroplanes travelling further east will be handed seamlessly to a better-positioned Eutelsat spacecraft, which should enable passengers to stay connected all the way across to Turkey if needs be.

This is one of the benefits of the strategic alliance that the two satellite companies have formed. And in time this will see the pair operate a ViaSat-3 platform together over Europe. This spacecraft is being built to have a total throughput capacity of one terabit per second.

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172B has a 3D printed bracket (far right) holding an antenna to the satellite. This component is 35% lighter than the conventionally produced bracket (far left)

From its position very close to the International Date Line, Eutelsat’s 172B spacecraft is going to target – amongst other business – the flight corridors of the Asia-Pacific region. And it has some very smart British technology to do this in the form of a multi port amplifier.

This can flexibly switch power between the satellite’s 11 spot beams to make sure the available bandwidth is always focused where it is needed most – whether that be on the planes moving east-west from Japan to California, say, or when they go in the other direction as a cluster at a different time of day.

“To oversimplify, in-flight connectivity has mostly been restricted to the US. But now it is expanding into the Asia-Pacific region and it’s also coming to Europe,” said Rodolphe Belmer, Eutelsat’s chief executive officer.

“We see spontaneous demand from airlines and it’s booming. It’s true the technology hasn’t always delivered, but you will see with the introduction of very high throughput satellites in the next few years that we will be able to… bring a massive quantity of bandwidth onboard the plane, meaning you can stream Netflix in HD. That’s a game-changer.”

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In-flight connectivity is a key battleground for the satellite operators

Euroconsult is one of the world’s leading analyst groups following the satellite industry. Its research confirms the rapid growth now taking place, and says this will only accelerate.

Euroconsult’s recent report on in-flight-connectivity (IFC) predicted nearly half of all commercial planes would be enabled by 2021, pushing revenues for the suppliers of onboard services from $1bn to $6.5bn inside 10 years. But Euroconsult’s CEO, Pacôme Revillon, said there will be winners and losers in this IFC race and this would likely be decided in the very near future.

“Going to 2020, approximately 50% of aircraft could have opted for their chosen connectivity solutions, and certainly all of the major airlines will have made that choice. By that stage the market share could decide who are the winners and losers, and we anticipate seeing some consolidation in this sector, with two to three companies coming to dominate the market,” he told BBC News.

and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos

Basildon Council fined £150,000 for traveller family data breach

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Basildon Council published information about a traveller family’s disabilities

A council has been fined £150,000 for publishing sensitive personal information about a traveller family on its website.

Basildon Council released details about the family’s disabilities, including mental health issues, in a planning application.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says the authority failed to remove the personal data.

The council said it was taking legal advice and has 28 days to appeal.

Basildon Council breached the Data Protection Act when it published the information in planning application documents which it made publicly available online, the ICO said.

Its investigation found the authority received a written statement in support of a planning application for proposed works on green belt land on 16 July 2015.

The statement contained sensitive personal data relating to the traveller family who had lived on the site for several years.

‘Serious incident’

The ICO said an inexperienced council officer did not notice the personal information, and there was no procedure in place for a second person to check it before it was published online.

The information was only removed on 4 September 2015 when the concerns came to light.

ICO enforcement manager Sally Anne Poole said: “This was a serious incident in which highly sensitive personal data, including medical information, was made publicly available.

“Planning applications in themselves can be controversial and emotive, so to include such sensitive information and leave it out there for all to see for several weeks is simply unacceptable.”

A Basildon Council spokesman said: “The council has been given 28 days in which to lodge an appeal against this decision. We are taking advice and considering our position.”

‘One in two’ young online gamers bullied, report finds

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Media captionOne online gamer told the BBC he had experienced death threats online.

A study carried out by an anti-bullying charity found that 57% of the young people it surveyed had experienced bullying online when playing games.

In addition, 22% said they had stopped playing a game as a result.

Ditch the Label surveyed around 2,500 young members of the virtual hotel platform Habbo, aged between 12 and 25.

One 16-year-old gamer, Bailey Mitchell, told the BBC he had experienced bullying while playing online games since the age of 10.

“If you’re going to school every day and you’re being bullied in school you want to go home to your computer to escape,” he said.

“So if you’re getting more abuse thrown at you it’s going to put you off doing anything social – it has for a lot of people I know, me included.

“It’s regular, every other game you’re in, there’s always someone who has a mic or types in chat. They’ll call you some random abusive thing they can think of.”

Death threats

Mr Mitchell said he regularly received death threats but enjoyed playing online as the competition against others made the games more challenging.

“Now, when I get things, I’ll reply with something funny or ignore it. But when I was 10 it was like: who are these people, why are they being mean to me?”

Ditch the Label chief executive Liam Hackett said his charity was launching a global campaign to try to tackle the problem.

“Bullying within online gaming environments is a real issue,” he said.

“We are standing for acceptance and tolerance within our games and making the internet a better place.”

The report also found:

  • 47% of those surveyed said they had been threatened in an online game
  • 38% said they had been hacked within a game
  • 74% said they would like the issue to be taken more seriously
  • 29% said bullying and trolling did not affect their enjoyment of online games

Around half of the respondents said they believed extra human moderation would help prevent bullying from occurring.

“Online games are often violent and based upon conflict,” said Dr Ian Rivers, a psychologist at the University of Strathclyde.

“However this study also shows us that we also need to look at the ways in which people interact online while gaming.”

Has the time now come for internet voting?

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The use of internet – or electronic – voting in elections is growing. But there are still plenty of concerns about reliability, safety and privacy. Will electing your government via the tap of a smartphone ever catch on?

Next month people in the UK will vote in a general election, heading to polling stations at schools, libraries and other public buildings to put a cross on a piece of paper.

In the digital era, it all seems quaintly archaic.

Bad weather can put people off going to vote, while others forget to register or might be away on holiday and not have arranged a postal vote.

Couldn’t technology remove some of these barriers to democratic involvement?

Estonia certainly thinks so.

About 14 countries have used some form of online voting, but Estonia was the first to introduce permanent national internet voting.

The small Baltic state began using online voting in 2005, and i-voting has served in eight elections. In the 2005 local elections, only 1.9% of voters cast their ballot online, rising to more than 30% in the most recent parliamentary election.

“I-voting has become massive, and statistically there is no such thing as a typical i-voter,” says Arne Koitmae, deputy head of Estonia’s Electoral Office.

“All voters, irrespective of gender, income, education, nationality and even computer skills, have the likelihood of becoming an i-voter,” he says.

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The ability to vote by smartphone would engage young people in politics, say campaigners

Online voting is a good way to engage with younger voters, busy workers, and even Estonians living abroad, Mr Koitmae says. “In 2015, Estonians living in 116 different countries participated in the elections using internet voting.”

However, it does not seem to have increased the total number of people voting, he says. Rather, people have changed their preferred method of voting.


Since Estonia’s i-voting began, there have been no serious security issues, Mr Koitmae says. The technology and processes used are updated regularly based on technical advances and experiences from each election.

A crucial part of Estonia’s system is that online voting is linked to the country’s state-of-the-art electronic identity cards – carried by every citizen and resident.

Digital ID cards allow for the secure authentication of the owner online, and enables a digital signature to be linked to the account. Newer cards include an electronic copy of the owner’s fingerprints.

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Little has changed in the way the UK votes since 1872

Estonian voter Igor Hobotov says the ID-linked i-voting system makes him feel a lot more secure when voting than a paper-based method. In fact, he says he might not vote at all if the online option was not available to him.

“I have e-voted multiple times, in local elections and parliament elections. Mostly I’ve been at home, but once I even voted on holiday from Cape Town. I prefer to e-vote because it is more convenient and more secure – we have a digital ID card with [strong] encryption, which is really, really hard to hack,” Mr Hobotov says.

“I can vote without any hassle, just sat at the computer. I would probably never vote if I had to go somewhere to do it.”

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Australia’s state of New South Wales allows voters with impaired vision, other disabilities, those in rural areas, and those not present in the state on election day to vote online or via telephone in state general elections.

A few municipalities in Canada allow for online voting in municipal elections, but the government has specifically decided against it for federal elections.

Norway tested i-voting in parliamentary elections in 2011 and 2013, but decided to discontinue online voting due to political disagreement and voters’ concerns.

And France previously allowed citizens living abroad to cast their vote online in legislative elections, but has disallowed this for the upcoming June legislative elections amid cyber-security concerns.


Would Estonia-style i-voting work in the UK?

Recently, a special report by the Digital Democracy Commission recommended that by 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters.

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Matthew Burton thinks i-voting could trivialise the electoral process

UK voter Matthew Burton says he definitely wouldn’t switch the paper and pen vote for an online system.

“Voting is an important activity, and something people have died for and continue to die for. It should be more important than pressing a button on a smartphone on your way to work or when you’re out with friends,” he says.

Not only could i-voting trivialise the process, he says, there may also be security concerns – not just over voter fraud, but also ballot secrecy. Would some people be scared to vote knowing it might not be 100% secret, he wonders.

Stephen Schneider, professor in security for the department of computer science at the University of Surrey, says the success of Estonia’s system lies in the fact it was built from the ground up, supported by a solid infrastructure including the digital identification system.

“Their digital ID cards underpin the whole thing,” Prof Schneider says. “Without it, it would be like building [a voting system] on sand.”

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Electronic ballot boxes in polling booths were used for the first time in Mexico in 2009

To make i-voting work in the UK, several changes would be needed, including introducing electronic ID cards.

The technical ability for digital identification is certainly already here. One company is even trialling smartphone-based selfies for voter authentication.

The real risk

However, Prof Schneider says the necessary changes pose more of a societal challenge, as many people are uncomfortable with registering personal data, such as with ID cards.

Prof Schneider says the main security threat to online voting would be from malware on personal computers, which could potentially change votes cast via the internet.

Similarly, the use of internet-enabled voting machines in polling stations is “not really very secure”, he says. Many older machines, some used in the US, are “more easy to subvert”.

However, security software company Symantec says individual voters are not at any real risk, and it has not seen a single incident of external attackers interfering with voters.

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Symantec says hackers prefer to target political systems not individual voters

Symantec believes large-scale attackers – including state-sponsored hackers – prefer to target political systems more generally, for example, the cyber-attack on the US Democratic Party in 2016.

“State-sponsored attack groups are not interested in affecting individual voters. What they are interested in is affecting the outcome of these election events,” Dick O’Brien, threat researcher at Symantec says.

Politicians and political parties are the “low-hanging fruit” for attackers, he says, because of the often chaotic nature of communications within these organisations.

And with a number of elections coming up across Europe, he says, it is not the individual voter who must remain vigilant, but politicians and political parties.

BA flight disruption at Heathrow set for third day

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British Airways passengers are facing a third day of disruption at Heathrow as the airline deals with the impact of a worldwide computer system crash.

BA says it aims to operate a full long-haul schedule and a “high proportion” of short-haul services after the outage caused by a power failure.

It says passengers should check the status of flights before travelling.

Cancellations and delays affected thousands of passengers at both Heathrow and Gatwick on Saturday.

All flights operated from Gatwick on Sunday but more than a third of services from Heathrow – mostly to short-haul destinations – were cancelled.

In a statement, BA said its IT systems were moving “closer to full operational capacity”.

“We continue to make good progress in rebuilding our operation, following Saturday’s major IT systems failure which severely affected our operations worldwide,” it added.

“At Heathrow, we have operated virtually all our scheduled long-haul flights, though the knock-on effects of Saturday’s disruption resulted in a reduced short-haul programme.

“We apologise again to customers for the frustration and inconvenience they are experiencing and thank them for their continued patience.”

Yoga mats

BA is liable to reimburse thousands of passengers for refreshments and hotel expenses, and travel industry commentators have suggested the cost to the company – part of Europe’s largest airline group IAG – could run in to tens of millions of pounds.

Customers displaced by flight cancellations can claim up to £200 a day for a room (based on two people sharing), £50 for transport between the hotel and airport, and £25 a day per adult for meals and refreshments.

On Saturday night, travellers spent the night sleeping on terminal floors at Heathrow on yoga mats provided by BA.

The disruption continued into Sunday, with queues building up as passengers tried to rebook flights. Conference rooms at the airport were opened to provide somewhere more comfortable for passengers to rest.

BA said Heathrow was still expected to be congested on Monday and urged travellers not to go to the airport unless they had a confirmed booking for a flight that was operating.

It said passengers could get a full refund or rebook to travel up to the end of November but recommend they use its website.

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Queues built up on Sunday at Heathrow Terminal 5 as passengers waited to speak to BA staff

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Thousands of bags remain at Heathrow Airport, but BA has advised passengers not to return to collect them, saying they will be couriered to customers.

The airline said there was no evidence the computer failure was the result of a cyber attack. It denied claims by the GMB union that problem could be linked to the company outsourcing its IT work.

Gatwick Airport said it was continuing to advise customers travelling with British Airways to check the status of their flight with the airline before travelling to the airport.

EU flight delay rights

  • If your flight departed the European Union or was with a European airline, you might have rights under EU law to claim if the delay or cancellation was within the airline’s control
  • Short-haul flights: 250 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Medium-haul flights: 400 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Long-haul flights: 300 euros for delays of between three and four hours; and 600 euros for delays of more than four hours
  • If your flight’s delayed for two or more hours the airline must offer food and drink, access to phone calls and emails, and accommodation if you’re delayed overnight – including transfers between the airport and the hotel

BA aims to resume most UK flights after IT failure

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British Airways says it is aiming to run a “near normal schedule” at Gatwick and the “majority of services” from Heathrow on Sunday after a “major” IT failure saw all flights cancelled.

Serious problems with BA’s systems led to thousands of passengers having their plans disrupted on Saturday.

Passengers described “chaotic” scenes at the airports, with some criticising BA for a lack of information.

The airline apologised and said it was refunding and rebooking customers.

BA advised customers to continue checking the status of their flight on its website before travelling to the airport.

The airline said there was no evidence the computer problems were the result of a cyber attack.

The company’s chief executive Alex Cruz had said it was believed “the root cause was a power supply issue”.

Other airlines flying in and out of the two airports were unaffected.

The IT failure had affected check-in and operational systems, including customer service phone lines.

BA said although some of its IT systems have returned, “there will be some knock-on disruption to our schedules as aircraft and crews are out of position around the world.

“We are repositioning some aircraft during the night to enable us to operate as much of our schedule as possible throughout Sunday.”

A BA spokesman added: “We are continuing to work hard to restore all of our IT systems…

“We are extremely sorry for the huge disruption caused to customers throughout Saturday and understand how frustrating their experiences will have been.

“We are refunding or rebooking customers who suffered cancellations on to new services as quickly as possible and have also introduced more flexible rebooking policies for anyone due to travel on Sunday and Monday who no longer wishes to fly to/from Heathrow or Gatwick.”

Delayed luggage

Earlier, the airline said most long-haul flights due to land in London on Sunday were expected to arrive as normal.

The GMB union had suggested the failure could have been avoided, had the airline not outsourced its IT work.

BA denied the claim, saying: “We would never compromise the integrity and security of our IT systems”.

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Passengers were left stranded outside Heathrow Terminal 5 on Saturday as a result of the IT failure

Aviation expert Julian Bray told the BBC the IT failure had an impact on planes taking off, as well as baggage systems, and staff access to computers.

“This is a very serious problem, they should have been able to switch to an alternative system – surely British Airways should be able to do this,” he said.

BA aircraft landing at Heathrow had also been unable to park as outbound aircraft could not vacate the gates, which resulted in passengers being stuck on aircraft.

Delays were also reported in Rome, Prague, Milan, Stockholm and Malaga due to the system failure, which coincided with a bank holiday weekend and the start of the half-term holiday for many people in the UK.

Some passengers reported having to leave Heathrow without their luggage on Saturday.

BA confirmed the IT failure had led to a “significant number” of bags being left at the airport. It urged passengers not to return to collect their luggage, saying it would be returned to them via courier free of charge.

EU flight delay rights

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Getty Images

  • If your flight departed the European Union or was with a European airline, you might have rights under EU law to claim if the delay or cancellation was within the airline’s control
  • Short-haul flights: 250 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Medium-haul flights: 400 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Long-haul flights: 300 euros for delays of between three and four hours; and 600 euros for delays of more than four hours
  • If your flight’s delayed for two or more hours the airline must offer food and drink, access to phone calls and emails, and accommodation if you’re delayed overnight – including transfers between the airport and the hotel

Theresa May: Online extremism ‘must be tackled’

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Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to combat online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is “moving from the battlefield to the internet”.

At the G7 summit in Sicily, the PM said tech companies had to do more to identify and remove extreme material.

She also urged more action on tackling foreign fighters who travel to join IS.

Meanwhile, UK police have arrested another man in connection with Monday’s terror attack in Manchester.

Twenty-two people were killed and 116 injured when a suicide bomber targeted an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena on Monday evening.

Corbyn links terror threat to wars abroad

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said Mrs May had met the French president Emmanuel Macron at the summit and both agreed that the recent attacks in Manchester and Paris showed the need for greater cooperation.

Mrs May warned that fighters returning to their home countries from countries like Iraq and Syria posed a new terrorist threat and urged G7 members to work with “our partners in the region to step up returns and prosecutions of foreign fighters.

“This means improving intelligence sharing, evidence gathering and bolstering countries’ police and legal processes,” she said.

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The bombing at Manchester Arena on Monday night killed 22 people and injured 116

G7 members needed to be able to share data securely in order to track fighters as they cross borders and make decisions about whether to prosecute them, she said.

The PM also sought common ground on tackling online extremism as she chaired a counter-terrorism session at the summit in Italy, looking at how countries could work together to prevent online plotting of terrorist attacks and to stop the spread of extremist ideology.

The prime minister argued that, as IS militants lose ground in the Middle East, the threat was “evolving rather than disappearing” and that the industry had a “social responsibility” to do more to take down harmful content, arguing it had taken some action but had not gone far enough.

‘Lift the lid’

She wants an international forum to develop the means of intervening where danger is detected, and for companies to develop tools which automatically identify and remove harmful material based on what it contains and who posted it.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed France’s total support for Britain’s fight against terrorism as he met Mrs May at the summit.

“We will be here to cooperate and do everything we can in order to increase this cooperation at the European level, in order to do more from a bilateral point of view against terrorism,” he told her, in their first formal meeting since he took office.

Security minister Ben Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the use of online communications was “one of the biggest challenges” in the fight against terrorism, with encryption making it “almost impossible for us to actually lift the lid on these people”.

“And the scale of it is not just the UK, it is across the whole of Europe, across the world.”

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He said the giant American tech companies like Facebook and Google could be doing more.

“We are determined to not let these people off the hook with the responsibility they have in broadcasting some horrendous [material], not only manuals about how to make bombs, but also grooming materials,” he said.

“We all think they could all do more… we need to have the tools to make them, where we need to, remove material quicker.”

Google said it was committed to creating an international forum designed to tackle extreme content online, to make sure “terrorists do not have a voice online”.

“We employ thousands of people and invest hundreds of millions of pounds to fight abuse on our platforms, and will continue investing and adapting to ensure we are part of the solution to addressing these challenges,” it added.

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Google plans to track credit card spending

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Google can use location data to close the gap between the physical and digital worlds although users can block this

Google is planning to track billions of credit and debit card sales to compare online ad clicks with money spent offline.

The company will allow advertisers to see whether online ad campaigns generate offline sales.

Announcing the service, Google said that it captures around 70% of credit and debit card transactions in the US.

Critics said it represented another blow to privacy.

Google also announced a separate monitoring product in a blogpost, saying: “For the first time, Google Attribution makes it possible for every marketer to measure the impact of their marketing across devices and cross-channel – all in one place.”

The company has vast amounts of data on net users, from services such as AdWords, Google Analytics and DoubleClick Search which combine details about the ads displayed on devices with what has been searched for in Google.

Google can also collect location information from phones, allowing it to work out when a user has seen an ad, and whether they have searched for the product advertised and gone to an offline shop to buy it.

Privacy concerns

It introduced store visit measurements back in 2014, using the location data on mobiles to track when people visited a store.

“In under three years, advertisers globally have measured over five billion store visits,” it said.

It added that Google’s “third-party partnerships” already capture approximately 70% of credit and debit card transactions in the US, but did not reveal who the partners were or how information was captured.

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The service would likely hit barriers if it was rolled out in Europe, privacy campaigners say

Google will not have access to the details about what individuals spend – instead they learn the value of all purchases in a certain time period.

“While we developed the concept for this product years ago, it required years of effort to develop a solution that could meet our stringent user privacy requirements,” a spokesman said.

“To accomplish this, we developed a new, custom encryption technology that ensures users’ data remains private, secure, and anonymous.”

“What’s really fascinating to me is that as the companies become increasingly intrusive in terms of their data collection, they also become more secretive,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told the Washington Post.

The measurement of store sales will be aggregated and anonymised and no location data will be shared with advertisers.

‘Creepy’ adverts

Users can opt out of the service by going to their ads setting page and unchecking the box that says: “Also use Google Account activity and information to personalise ads on these websites and apps and store that data in your Google Account”.

Users can also disable personalisation for all Google ads. And they can pause or delete their location history.

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The company has vast amounts of data from its users

The service is currently limited to the US – and would likely hit barriers if it was rolled out in Europe, privacy campaigners say.

The upcoming General Data Protection Regulation aims to tighten the ways online firms use and collect data and will require online firms to get explicit consent from consumers about data use.

“The one thing people regularly state as ‘creepy’ online is when an advert follows them around the internet. These plans appear to extend ‘creepy’ into the physical world,” said Renate Samson from Big Brother Watch.

“If people want to avoid having their shopping habits monitored on the high street by Google, by shops or by banks they should restrict the amount of data they hand over.

“Companies track and monitor in order to advertise to us. If we don’t want them to do that, take control; don’t give your email address for a digital receipt, check the terms and conditions, avoid using loyalty cards and where possible choose to pay with cash.”

Robot police officer goes on duty in Dubai

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Dubai Media Office

Dubai Police have revealed their first robot officer, giving it the task of patrolling the city’s malls and tourist attractions.

People will be able to use it to report crimes, pay fines and get information by tapping a touchscreen on its chest.

Data collected by the robot will also be shared with the transport and traffic authorities.

The government said the aim was for 25% of the force to be robotic by 2030 but they would not replace humans.

“We are not going to replace our police officers with this tool,” said Brig Khalid Al Razooqi, director general of smart services at Dubai Police.

“But with the number of people in Dubai increasing, we want to relocate police officers so they work in the right areas and can concentrate on providing a safe city.

Multi-lingual robot

“Most people visit police stations or customer service, but with this tool we can reach the public 24/7.

“It can protect people from crime because it can broadcast what is happening right away to our command and control centre.”

The robot, a customised Reem model from Pal Robotics, was unveiled at the Gulf Information and Security Expo and Conference on Sunday.

At present it can communicate only in Arabic and English, but there are plans to add Russian, Chinese, French and Spanish to its repertoire.

A second Reem robot could join it on patrol next year depending on funding, the government in Dubai said.

Just A Baby app matches hopeful parents

A new dating app lets people search for sperm and egg donors, surrogate mothers and lovers.

The makers of Just A Baby say anybody who wants to have a child can sign up, and hope it will be useful for single people, same-sex couples or people who have not had a child but want one.

But some organisations have criticised the app.

The BBC’s Zoe Kleinman reports.

How Cuba’s growing internet is fuelling new businesses

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Cubazon’s Bernardo Romero Gonzalez is counting on the Cuban diaspora to help grow his business

As the internet becomes more widespread in Cuba, online start-ups are emerging. But the problems many of the companies hope to address are also a reminder of how far the island has to go.

Bernardo Romero Gonzalez, a 33-year-old software engineer from Cuba, launched his new business this month: a website where people can order island-made products such as soap, bouquets of flowers and cakes for home delivery.

“It’s like Amazon for Cuba, but with a difference,” he told an audience of New York techies at a conference this month.

The summary was a classic start-up pitch, but it also underscored the obstacles when it comes to starting an online business in the Caribbean country.

Mr Gonzalez is counting on buyers from the Cuban diaspora, which already plays a role in the economy, sending money and other products to the island.

But the infrastructure doesn’t exist for domestic buyers to sustain the market.

Growing internet

Internet access among Cuba’s 11.2 million people is growing.

Between 2013 and 2015, the share of the Cuban population using the internet jumped from about a quarter to more than 35%, according to estimates from the International Telecommunications Union.

The growing market has helped draw the attention of internet giants, such as Airbnb, Netflix and Google, which installed servers on the island and started hosting data there last month.

The rise is also fuelling activity among local entrepreneurs, who are launching domestic versions of sites such as the crowd-review business directory Yelp.

But there’s a long way to go.

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Public wi-fi hotspots remain the primary way for Cubans to access the internet

‘Third world conditions’

Less than 6% of Cuban households had internet access at home in 2015, one of the lowest rates in the western hemisphere, according to the ITU. (In the UK, that figure tops 91%.)

Wi-fi hotspots in parks and other public places operated by the state-run telecom company remain the primary way to log on.

Service at the hotspots is often slow, expensive and selective, with the government restricting access to the full range of internet sites.

The constraints are shaping the emerging Cuban start-ups.

At this month’s TechCrunch conference in New York, Mr Gonzalez shared a stage with Kewelta, a firm focusing on advertising within decentralised online and offline networks, and Knales, which provides updates on weather, news and other events via text messages and phone calls.

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Knales co-founder Diana Elianne Benitez Perera called Cubans ‘disrupters by definition’

Knales co-founder Diana Elianne Benitez Perera told the audience that “Cubans are disrupters by definition. We always find the way to have first world conditions with third world conditions.”

‘Change in the air’

The government in recent years has taken some steps to boost internet access, increasing wi-fi hotspots in parks and other places, lowering prices and experimenting with home installations.

The measures come amid broader economic changes in Cuba, after the Castro regime loosened rules for private enterprise and the Obama administration eased the US embargo, unleashing large numbers of US travellers.

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US travel to Cuba has increased since the Obama administration eased the US embargo

The Cuba Emprende Foundation started working with the Catholic Church in Cuba about five years ago as the reforms started, funding four-week courses in entrepreneurship from which more than 3,000 people have graduated.

The Foundation helped organise the 10x10KCuba start-up competition in which both Diana and Bernardo participated last year, that led to the invitation to the Tech Crunch conference in New York in May.

“There’s change in the air,” says Anna Maria Alejo, one of the people who helped organise the TechCrunch panel and helped raise about $10,000 (£7,700) to pay for eight entrepreneurs to attend the conference.

“We’re not exactly sure where things will go, but there’s a lot of optimism among these young people,” she says.

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Three start-ups participated in a panel at the TechCrunch conference in New York in May


Cuba has a relatively high number of well-trained software engineers, especially for a country with its size and degree of internet access, said Kirk Laughlin, managing director of NearShore Americas.

The media advisory company published a report in 2015 that highlighted the island’s potential as a hub for cheap IT labour.

But Mr Laughlin says he’s been disappointed by how slowly the Cuban government has moved to improve the broadband network, especially given interest from international companies and numbers of educated Cubans opting to leave and take their chances elsewhere.

“There is such an opportunity to leapfrog ahead and really light up the island with really robust broadband. That is just not happening,” he says.

“When it comes to online start-ups, there’s a lot of workarounds”.

“That’s great that people have the ingenuity and creativity and in some ways we should applaud that,” he says.

“But it’s still a long way to go to get into the league that Cuba has great qualifications to participate in.”

‘The companies are waiting’

Some say the changes could accelerate after Raul Castro retires next year.

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Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez is expected to succeed Raul Castro in Cuba

In speeches, Mr Castro’s presumed successor, vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel, has indicated a more open attitude, said Larry Press, a professor emeritus at California State University Dominguez Hills, who has researched the internet in the developing world and writes a blog on Cuba.

Mr Press said media recently praised Revolico, a Craigslist-like site that was blocked by the government after its launch in 2007. More recently, it has been celebrated and has inspired competitors.

But those steps aside, a lot of work remains, he says.

“Those indicate a change of attitude, not a giant change of reality.”

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Less than 6% of Cuban households are estimated to have internet access at home

Mr Gonzalez, who has also started computer repair and web development businesses, said he thinks the moment for Cubazon is now, while shipping to Cuba from the US remains limited.

He and the staff from his current business are working to sign up more businesses to sell their wares on Cubazon.

Many of the people he’s talking to don’t have an online presence, he says, but can see the possibility: “The companies are waiting for us.”

Still, he adds, his primary focus for the moment is a basic one: “My goal currently is working.”

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FCC votes to overturn net neutrality rules

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FCC chairman Ajit Pai said existing rules hampered the growth of the tech sector

The US Federal Communications Commission has voted to overturn rules that force ISPs to treat all data traffic as equal.

Commissioners at the agency voted two-to-one to end a “net neutrality” order enacted in 2015.

Ajit Pai, head of the FCC, said the rules demanding an open internet harmed jobs and discouraged investment.

Many Americans and technology firms filed objections to the FCC’s proposal prior to the vote.

“This is the right way to go,” said Mr Pai ahead of the vote on Thursday.

In a statement, the FCC said it expected its proposed changes to “substantially benefit consumers and the marketplace”. It added that, before the rules were changed in 2015, they helped to preserve a “flourishing free and open internet for almost 20 years”.

Equal access

The vote by the FCC commissioners is the first stage in the process of dismantling the net neutrality regulations.

The agency is now inviting public comment on whether it should indeed dismantle the rules. Americans have until mid-August to share their views with the FCC.

This call for comments is likely to attract a huge number of responses. Prior to the vote, more than 1 million statements supporting net neutrality were filed on the FCC site.

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John Oliver urged his viewers to post comments to the FCC, opposing the reversal of net neutrality rules

Many people responded to a call from comedian and commentator John Oliver to make their feelings known.

Separately, some protestors also used software bots to repeatedly file statements on the site.

Many fear that once the equal access rules go, ISPs will start blocking and throttling some data while letting other packets travel on “fast lanes” because firms have paid more to reach customers quicker.

US ISPs such as Comcast, Charter Communications and Altice NV have pledged in public statements to keep data flowing freely.

Despite this public pledge Comcast, along with Verizon and AT&T, opposed the original 2015 rule change saying it dented their enthusiasm for improving US broadband.

Facebook, and Google’s parent company Alphabet as well as many other net firms have backed the open net rules saying equal access was important for all.

Text-to-switch plan for mobile users

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Mobile phone users will be able to switch operators by sending a text to the provider they want to leave, under plans drawn up by the regulator.

Ofcom said customers could avoid an awkward and long call to their operator and instead send a text. In turn, they will be sent switching codes.

The proposal means Ofcom’s previously preferred option – a more simple one-stage process – is being dropped.

That system was more expensive and could have raised bills, it said.

The change of preferred plan marks a victory for mobile operators who would have faced higher costs under the alternative system. Ofcom said its research suggested customers would also prefer the new planned system.

At present, anyone who wishes to switch to a different mobile provider must contact their current supplier to tell them they are leaving.

Ofcom research suggests that, of those who have switched, some 38% have been hit by one major problem during the process. One in five of them temporarily lost their service, while one in 10 had difficulties contacting their current supplier or keeping their phone number.

Under previous plans, Ofcom wanted responsibility for the switch being placed entirely in the hands of the new provider. That would mean one call to a new provider by the customer.


The regulator has now concluded that such a system would be twice as expensive as its newly-preferred option of texting to switch.

They would text, then receive a text back, which includes a unique code to pass on to their new provider who could arrange the switch within one working day. Customers would be able to follow this process whether they were taking their mobile number with them or not.

Under the proposed rules, mobile providers would be banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. That would mean customers would no longer have to pay for their old and new service at the same time after they have switched.

A final decision will be made in the autumn.

Latest figures published last year showed that there were an estimated 47 million mobile phone contracts in the UK, and approximately 5.9 million people had never switched provider at all, nor considered switching in the previous year.

General election 2017: Illegal content sanctions threat

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The Conservative manifesto proposes a so-called ‘Twitter tax’

Online companies could face fines or prosecution if they fail to remove illegal content, under Conservative plans for stricter internet regulation.

The party has also proposed an industry-wide levy, dubbed a “Twitter tax”, to fund “preventative activity to counter internet harms”.

Labour said it had “pressed for tough new codes” in the past but the government had “categorically refused”.

The Liberal Democrats said more needed to be done “to find a real solution”.

Voluntary contributions

The Conservatives said the levy, proposed in their election manifesto, would use the same model as that used in the gambling industry, where companies voluntarily contribute to the charity GambleAware to help pay for education, research, and treating gambling addiction.

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Labour says it wants to protect young people from online bullying

All social media and communications service providers would be given a set period to come up with plans to fund and promote efforts “to counter internet harms”.

If they failed to do so, the government would have the power to impose an industry-wide toll.

The Conservatives say the exact details, including how long the industry will be given to comply and the size of the levy, will be consulted upon.

A Labour spokesman said: “If the Tories are planning to levy a new tax on social media companies, they need to set out how it will work, who it will affect and what it will raise.

‘Sanctions regime’

“Labour has pushed for a code of practice about the responsibilities of social media companies to protect children and young people from abuse and bullying.”

The Conservatives have also pledged to introduce “a sanctions regime” that would give regulators “the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law”.

Social media platforms and internet service providers would have clearer responsibilities regarding the reporting and removal of harmful material, including bullying, inappropriate or illegal content, and would have to take down material.

“It is certainly bold of the Conservatives to boast that they can protect people on the internet,” Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said.

“Government and technology companies must do more to find a real solution to problematic content online.”

And Labour’s digital economy spokeswoman Louise Haigh said: “The Home Office were crystal clear they did not want to legislate and that they believed the voluntary framework was sufficient.

“The fact is that in government the Tories have been too afraid to stand up to the social media giants and keep the public safe from illegal and extremist content.”

Watch Mark Zuckerberg find out he’s got into Harvard

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has posted a video showing the moment he found out he got into Harvard, as filmed by his dad, Edward, about 15 years ago.

Zuckerberg actually dropped out to found what is now the biggest social network on the planet – but he’s due to pick up an honorary degree at Harvard next week.

He also wrote on his profile: “Before I went to college, my mom bet me I’d drop out and my younger sister bet me she’d finish college before me. I bet them I’d get a degree. Now I suppose the cycle is complete.”

Video produced by Dave Lee

DocuSign users sent phishing emails after data breach

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Electronic signature service provider DocuSign has admitted customer emails were accessed in a data breach.

The addresses were then targeted in a series of phishing emails from “a malicious third party”.

The messages invited recipients to click on a link to a Microsoft Word document containing malware.

DocuSign says that no other information was accessed in the incident, and the e-signature service remained secure.

“No names, physical addresses, passwords, social security numbers, credit card data or other information was accessed,” the company said in a statement.

“DocuSign’s core e-signature service, envelopes and customer documents and data remain secure.”

The company has advised people to delete any suspicious messages immediately.

‘Temporary access’

The breach came to light when the company noticed an increase in phishing emails sent to some of their account holders last week.

According to a statement published on DocuSign’s website, “a malicious third party gained temporary access to a separate, non-core system that allows us to communicate service-related announcements to users via email”.

The emails included the DocuSign branding and appeared to come from addresses ending “”, a lookalike domain.

The subject line referred to either a wire transfer or an accounting invoice, saying: “Document Ready for Signature”.

A full copy of the email has been published on the TechHelpList website, which reported that the malware contained in the attachment could be used to steal passwords and banking credentials.

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DocuSign users received emails asking them to review and sign a document

“Phishing is almost the default way of tricking people into giving away that information,” Keith Martin, professor of information security at Royal Holloway, University of London, told the BBC.

“Where it’s targeting a bank, for example, the senders are going to use headers and language that’ll make customers believe it’s their bank.

“With a generic phishing trawl, the message will go out and the more people who click the better – it’s literally like fishing, hoping to get some bites, chucking a message out there speculatively.

“With most, you don’t need a very high success rate to make money.”

HPE unveils ‘world’s largest’ single memory computer

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A prototype computer with 160TB of memory has been unveiled by Hewlett Packard Enterprises.

Designed to work on big data, it could analyse the equivalent of 160 million books at the same time, HPE said.

The device, called The Machine, had a Linux-based operating system and prioritised memory rather than processing power, the company said.

HPE said its Memory Driven Computing research project could eventually lead to a “near-limitless” memory pool.

“The secrets to the next great scientific breakthrough, industry-changing innovation or life-altering technology hide in plain sight behind the mountains of data we create every day,” said HPE boss Meg Whitman.

“To realise this promise, we can’t rely on the technologies of the past, we need a computer built for the big data era.”

Prof Les Carr, of the University of Southampton, told the BBC The Machine would be fast but big data faced other challenges.

“The ultimate way to speed things up is to make sure you have all the data present in your computer as close to the processing as possible so this is a different way of trying to speed things up,” he said.

“However, we need to make our processing… not just faster but more insightful and business relevant.”

“There are many areas in life where quicker is not necessarily better.”

Can knowing your genetic make-up lead to a healthier life?

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Mandy Mayer, 56, thinks DNA-testing has helped her drop two dress sizes

The latest health and fitness trend involves taking a DNA test to find out more about how our bodies respond to different types of food and exercise. But how accurate and effective are these kits?

Fitness fanatic Mandy Mayer, 56, exercised several times a week but felt like she’d hit a plateau.

Her personal trainer suggested she try a DNAFit test, which tests the body’s genetic response to key foods and exercise.

“I jumped at the chance,” she says. “I thought I’d love to have that kind of knowledge.”

After sending off a swab of her saliva, she received a report on her fitness and diet in January. She was impressed.

“I was like ‘wow’. They told me I don’t tolerate caffeine and refined foods very well, and I respond better to endurance training than anything else.”

Three months later and she has dropped from a size 12 to a size 10 and lost several kilos. She attributes her leaner figure to understanding more about her genetic code.

“Without a shadow of a doubt it was down to the test,” says Mandy, who lives in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

“It’s made me follow the right training and make little changes to my diet.”

A growing number of start-ups, such as 23andMe, FitnessGenes, UBiome, DNAFit, Orig3n and Habit, are moving into this space, promising that mail-order genetic tests can change your life for the better.

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Orig3n is one of a growing number of start-ups entering the DNA-testing market

Some researchers believe the global market for such kits could be worth more than $10bn (£7.7bn) by 2022.

But how do they work and how reliable are they?

Avi Lasarow, chief executive of DNAFit, explains that everything about who we are is the unique combination of what we are born with – our genetics – and how we live – our environment.

“The biggest ‘environment’ factor that we can control in our day-to-day lives is our diet,” he says, “so by understanding more about the static part, the genetics, we can better tweak the bit in our control.”

He gives the example of the CYP1A2 gene, which controls around 95% of caffeine metabolism.

“Some people are fast metabolisers, some are slow, depending on their variants of this gene. Once you know this, however, you can make a better informed decision on your caffeine intake than you could without your genetic data.”

Robin Smith, chief executive of Orig3n, which offers a range of health and wellness DNA tests costing from $29 to $149, says the results can help people make educated choices about what works for their bodies.

“If a person’s DNA suggests that she is more likely to be deficient in B vitamins, she can pay attention to that in her daily life.

“Knowing what your DNA says about your body’s food sensitivities, food breakdown, hunger, weight, vitamins, allows you to become a more informed consumer.

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DNAFit says its kits can tell us what type of exercise we should be doing

“You can become smarter about what you choose to eat, and smarter about what supplements you choose to buy, saving you time, energy, and money while getting the results you want faster.”

So much for the sales pitch, but some genetic experts are concerned that the efficacy of such kits may be overhyped.

“I’m not against people being able to access genetic information about themselves if they wish to do so, provided the test results and limitations are clearly explained,” says Dr Jess Buxton, a geneticist at University College London.

“However, I do think that the amount of useful information that personalised health tests can offer is very limited at present because we still know very little about the effect of most SNPs [genetic variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms] and other types of genetic variation on a person’s health.”

While there are a few conditions, such as lactose intolerance, for which the genetic variations are very clear and well understood, the same cannot be said for most other conditions, she says.

“These [genetic variations] interact with each other and with non-genetic factors in ways that we don’t fully understand, so it’s impossible to make accurate predictions based on information about just a few of the gene variants involved, as many of these tests do.”

That said, some studies do suggest that this kind of analysis might work. For example, the University of Trieste and the IRCCS Burlo Garofolo Institute for Maternal and Child Health in Italy found that those following diet based on genetic analysis lost 33% more weight than a controlled group.

Some start-ups are not just relying on a person’s genetic make-up to make their diet and exercise recommendations.

San Francisco-based Habit’s home kit includes a series of DNA samples, blood tests and a shake to drink so that the company can measure how your body metabolises fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

“Unlike other at-home tests that measure DNA alone, Habit looks at how the entire body works together,” explains founder and chief executive Neil Grimmer.

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Thierry Attias found out that he needed to eat far more vegetables to lose weight

Habit, he says, measures more than 60 nutrition-related blood and genetic biomarkers, biometrics and lifestyle choices, to make personalised nutrition recommendations for each individual.

“Personalised recommendations should be based on your entire biology, not just your DNA,” says Mr Grimmer.

One early adopter is Thierry Attias, president of Momentum Sports Group, a firm managing the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team.

“Even though I cycle a few times a week, I carry an extra couple of pounds and I was curious to learn more about myself,” says Mr Attias, who lives in Oakland, California.

He discovered that he’s caffeine sensitive, his diet needs to include more plant-based food, and his body is slow at processing fats.

While Habit was still in testing phase, he opted to receive personalised ready-to-eat meals from the company for three days.

“An interesting thing happened,” he enthuses. “I lost four pounds in a few days. I learnt portion size and how much more veg I needed in a serving.”

In two months he has lost about 11 pounds (5kg), he says.

But do we really need a testing kit to tell as to eat more vegetables and fewer fats as part of a healthy balanced diet – advice that has been around for decades?

You decide.

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Ransomware cyber-attack a wake-up call, Microsoft warns

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Media captionHow to protect yourself online

Cyber-attacks that have hit 150 countries since Friday should be treated by governments around the world as a “wake-up call”, Microsoft says.

The computing giant said software vulnerabilities hoarded by governments have caused “widespread damage”.

The latest virus exploits a flaw in Microsoft Windows first identified by US intelligence.

There are fears of further “ransomware” attacks as people return to work on Monday.

Many firms have had experts work over the weekend to prevent new infections. The virus took control of users’ files, demanding payments to restore access.

The spread of the virus slowed over the weekend but the respite might only be brief, experts have warned. More than 200,000 computers have been affected so far.

A statement released by Microsoft on Sunday criticised the way governments store up information about security flaws in computer systems.

“We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world.

“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”

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Media captionFirms must patch their systems before Monday morning, Europol chief warns

It added: “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call.”

Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but many users were yet to run it.

“As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems,” the company said.

Temporary fix

Meanwhile Europol’s chief told the BBC that that the ransomware was designed to allow “infection of one computer to quickly spread across the networks”, adding: “That’s why we’re seeing these numbers increasing all the time.”

Although a temporary fix earlier slowed the infection rate, the attackers had now released a new version of the virus, he said.

A UK security researcher known as “MalwareTech”, who helped to limit the ransomware attack, predicted “another one coming… quite likely on Monday”.

MalwareTech, who wants to remain anonymous, was hailed as an “accidental hero” after registering a domain name to track the spread of the virus, which actually ended up halting it.

Becky Pinkard, from Digital Shadows, a UK-based cyber-security firm, told AFP news agency that it would be easy for the initial attackers or “copy-cat authors” to change the virus code so it is difficult to guard against.

“Even if a fresh attack does not materialise on Monday, we should expect it soon afterwards,” she said.

In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts reported problems at hospitals, doctor surgeries or pharmacies, and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were also affected.

Other organisations targeted worldwide included Germany’s rail network Deutsche Bahn, Spanish telecommunications operator Telefonica, French carmaker Renault, US logistics giant FedEx and Russia’s Interior Ministry.

Global cyber-attack: Security blogger halts ransomware ‘by accident’

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Media captionLISTEN: How ‘Malware Tech’ became an ‘accidental hero’

A UK security researcher has told the BBC how he “accidentally” halted the spread of the malicious ransomware that has affected hundreds of organisations, including the UK’s NHS.

The 22-year-old man, known by the pseudonym MalwareTech, had taken a week off work, but decided to investigate the ransomware after hearing about the global cyber-attack.

He managed to bring the spread to a halt when he found what appeared to be a “kill switch” in the rogue software’s code.

“It was actually partly accidental,” he told the BBC, after spending the night investigating. “I have not slept a wink.”

Although his discovery did not repair the damage done by the ransomware, it did stop it spreading to new computers, and he has been hailed an “accidental hero”.

“I would say that’s correct,” he told the BBC.

Cyber-attack scale ‘unprecedented’

NHS ‘robust’ after cyber-attack

“The attention has been slightly overwhelming. The boss gave me another week off to make up for this train-wreck of a vacation.”

What exactly did he discover?

The researcher first noticed that the malware was trying to contact a specific web address every time it infected a new computer.

But the web address it was trying to contact – a long jumble of letters – had not been registered.

MalwareTech decided to register it, and bought it for $10.69 (£8). Owning it would let him see where computers were accessing it from, and give him an idea of how widespread the ransomware was.

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Owning the web address let MalwareTech monitor where infections were happening

By doing so, he unexpectedly triggered part of the ransomware’s code that told it to stop spreading.

Analysis: How did it start?

What is the ransomware?

This type of code is known as a “kill switch”, which some attackers use to halt the spread of their software if things get out of hand.

He tested his discovery and was delighted when he managed to trigger the ransomware on demand.

“Now you probably can’t picture a grown man jumping around with the excitement of having just been ‘ransomwared’, but this was me,” he said in a blog post.

MalwareTech now thinks the code was originally designed to thwart researchers trying to investigate the ransomware, but it backfired by letting them remotely disable it.

Does this mean the ransomware is defeated?

While the registration of the web address appears to have stopped one strain of the ransomware spreading from device-to-device, it does not repair computers that are already infected.

Security experts have also warned that new variants of the malware that ignore the “kill switch” will appear.

“This variant shouldn’t be spreading any further, however there’ll almost certainly be copycats,” said security researcher Troy Hunt in a blog post.

MalwareTech warned: “We have stopped this one, but there will be another one coming and it will not be stoppable by us.

“There’s a lot of money in this, there is no reason for them to stop. It’s not much effort for them to change the code and start over.”

Massive ransomware infection hits computers in 99 countries

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The ransomware has been identified as WannaCry – here shown in a safe environment on a security researcher’s computer

A massive cyber-attack using tools believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency has struck organisations around the world.

Computers in thousands of locations have been locked by a programme that demands $300 (£230) in Bitcoin.

In April hackers known as The Shadow Brokers claimed to have stolen the tools and released them online.

Microsoft released a patch for the vulnerability in March, but many systems may not have been updated.

How big is the attack?

There have been reports of infections in 99 countries, including the UK, US, China, Russia, Spain, Italy and Taiwan.

Cyber-security firm Avast said it had seen 75,000 cases of the ransomware – known as WannaCry and variants of that name – around the world.

“This is huge,” said Jakub Kroustek at Avast.

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Media captionWhat is ransomware?

Many researchers say the incidents appear to be linked, but say it may not be a coordinated attack on specific targets.

Meanwhile wallets for the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin that were seemingly associated with the ransomware were reported to have started filling up with cash.

Who has been affected?

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has been hit and screenshots of the WannaCry program were shared by NHS staff.

Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments One NHS worker told the BBC that patients would “almost certainly suffer and die” as a result.

Some reports said Russia had seen more infections than any other single country. Russia’s interior ministry said it had “localised the virus” following an “attack on personal computers using Windows operating system”.

People tweeted photos of affected computers including a local railway ticket machine in Germany and a university computer lab in Italy.

A number of Spanish firms – including telecoms giant Telefonica, power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural – suffered from the outbreak. There were reports that staff at the firms were told to turn off their computers.

Portugal Telecom, delivery company FedEx, a Swedish local authority and Megafon, the second largest mobile phone network in Russia, also said they had been affected.

Who is behind the attack?

Some experts say the attack may be have been built to exploit a weakness in Microsoft systems that was identified by the NSA and given the name EternalBlue.

The NSA tools were then stolen by a group of hackers known as The Shadow Brokers, who then attempted to sell the encrypted cache in an online auction.

However they subsequently made the tools freely available, releasing a password for the encryption on 8 April.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Rory Cellan Jones explains how Bitcoin works

The hackers said they had published the password as a “protest” about US President Donald Trump.

At the time, some cyber-security experts said some of the malware was real, but old.

A patch for the vulnerability was released by Microsoft in March, but many systems may not have had the update installed.

Microsoft said on Friday its engineers had added detection and protection against WannaCrypt. The company was providing assistance to customers, it added.

How does the malware work?

Some security researchers have pointed out that the infections seem to be deployed via a worm – a program that spreads by itself between computers.

Unlike many other malicious programs, this one has the ability to move around a network by itself. Most others rely on humans to spread by tricking them into clicking on an attachment harbouring the attack code.

By contrast, once WannaCry is inside an organisation it will hunt down vulnerable machines and infect them too. This perhaps explains why its impact is so public – because large numbers of machines at each victim organisation are being compromised.

Man to pay $300,000 in damages for hacking employer

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Yovan Garcia changed payroll records to inflate the number of hours he had worked.

A former private security officer in California must pay nearly $319,000 (£248,000) in damages for attacking his employer’s computer systems.

Yovan Garcia accessed payroll records at Security Specialists, which provides private security patrols, to inflate the number of hours he had worked.

He later hacked the firm’s servers to steal data and defaced its website.

District Judge Michael Fitzgerald said Garcia had used the stolen data to help set up a rival business.

Security Specialists first noticed issues with Mr Garcia’s pay records in July 2014, about two years after he joined.

In one example, they showed he had worked 12 hours per day over a two-week period and was owed 40 hours of overtime pay, when in fact he only worked eight hours per day.

According to the Central District Court of California, Mr Garcia had obtained login credentials – without ever having been given them – and accessed the records without authorisation.

Judge Fitzgerald said: “As a result, defendant Garcia was paid thousands of dollars more in overtime wages than he was really owed.

Defaced website

This led to his sacking, but soon afterwards he hacked Security Specialists’ servers with “at least one other individual”.

Mr Garcia took emails and other confidential data to “lure away” Security Specialists’ clients to his new business, the judge said.

He also deleted or corrupted back-up files creating “debilitating” damage, according to the company.

A few days later, Security Specialists’ website was also vandalised, with the website’s header being changed to read “Are you ready”.

An “unflattering picture” of a senior member of staff was also published on the site, Judge Fitzgerald said.

He ordered Mr Garcia to pay $318,661.70 to cover costs to Security Specialists such as lost income and lost data.

Mr Garcia could also be liable to pay the firm’s legal costs at a later date, he said.

Snap shares slide as growth slows

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Shares in Snapchat’s owner have sunk after it reported disappointing growth in the first three months of the year.

In its first results since floating, Snap said the number of daily active users rose just 5% to 166 million compared with the last three months of 2016.

That was two million fewer than expected, but 36% higher than the same period last year.

The news sent shares tumbling more than 20% in after-hours trading in New York.

Snap’s adjusted loss of $188.2m was about $10m higher than analysts had expected, while the net loss soared to $2.2bn from $104.6m due to costs associated with the IPO earlier this year.

Revenue rose 286% for the quarter to almost $150m, but was also short of forecasts by about $9m.

Chicken nugget tweet breaks Twitter record

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Carter Wilkerson / Twitter

A tweet from a teenager asking a US fast food chain for a year’s supply of chicken nuggets has become the most retweeted ever.

Carter Wilkerson’s plea broke Ellen DeGeneres’ record when he passed 3,430,249 retweets on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Wendy’s said: “We didn’t expect Carter’s response, and we couldn’t anticipate the overwhelming support he has received.”

The company has donated $100,000 (£78,000) to charity in his name.

‘Consider it done’

On 5 April, the 16-year-old from Reno, Nevada, tweeted Wendy’s asking how many retweets he would need to get a year’s free supply of chicken nuggets.

The fast food chain replied within a minute: “18 million.”

“Consider it done,” Mr Wilkerson replied.

He then posted a screenshot of the tweets with the call “HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS.”

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Carter Wilkerson / Twitter

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The exchange that led to the record-breaking tweet

The tweet quickly went viral, reaching 1 million retweets in two days.

It was shared by global companies including Apple Music, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Twitter itself, and celebrities including Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul.

Other companies replied to the teenager with their own offers, including United Airlines, which said it would fly him to a Wendy’s restaurant in any of the cities it serves.

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United Airlines / Twitter

“The [PR] industry has a word for this type of activity: ‘brand-jacking’,” PR Week deputy editor John Harrington told the BBC.

“While not hugely original, it can be successful. It shows the importance of reacting quickly to trending topics on social media.”

And while Wendy’s seemed as surprised as anyone by the response to Mr Wilkerson’s tweet, Mr Harrington said that “from a PR point of view, they’ve played a blinder”.

“Most brands would probably have ignored the tweet or given a bland response, but by reacting with humour, Wendy’s has created a vast amount of positive exposure and goodwill.”

Oscars selfie

The record for the most retweets was previously held by Ellen DeGeneres, for her 2014 Oscars selfie.

The photo, which featured Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey and Meryl Streep among others, had 2.1 million retweets by the end of the awards ceremony.

When Mr Wilkerson first published his tweet, hers had about 3.2 million retweets.

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The 2014 Oscars selfie that previously held the record for most retweets

Ms DeGeneres brought up the challenge to her record on her talk show a week after Mr Wilkerson’s initial plea, when his message had reached 2.6 million retweets.

“Stop it right now,” she joked. “I worked so hard to set that record… and this guy asked for nuggets?”

“One moment the nation is reacting to a snap election, the next we are rallying behind a teenager who just really, really likes a chicken nugget,” commented Twitter’s UK managing director, Dara Nasr.

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Wendy’s / Twitter

Wendy’s said that when Mr Wilkerson broke the record, it would donate $100,000 (£78,000) to charity.

The money will go to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a US charity set up in 1992 by the founder of Wendy’s.

The charity works to find permanent homes for children in foster care.

US Air Force’s secretive space plane lands after two years in orbit

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-4), an unmanned, reusable space plane operated by the US Air Force, has landed at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida after two years in orbit.

US Air Force officials confirmed the craft’s landing and said they were “excited about the data gathered”.

According to a press release, the programme is designed to experiment on and develop reusable space vehicles.

But what the OTV-4 has been doing for the last 24 months isn’t clear.

“The hard work of the X-37B OTV team and the 45th Space Wing successfully demonstrated the flexibility and resolve necessary to continue the nation’s advancement in space,” said Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

OTV-4 on land

“The ability to land, refurbish, and launch from the same location further enhances the OTV’s ability to rapidly integrate and qualify new space technologies.”

Because the X-37B started life as a Nasa programme, the Air Force is in a position to talk openly about the craft’s design but its precise purpose remains classified.

Back in 2010, when the vehicle was first launched, Gary Payton, the Air Force’s deputy undersecretary for space programmes, tried to calm worries about the potential weaponisation of space.

“I don’t know how this could be called weaponisation of space. It’s just an updated version of the space shuttle type of activities in space,” he said.

“We, the Air Force, have a suite of military missions in space and this new vehicle could potentially help us do those missions better.”

Given that its landing on Sunday caused a sonic boom, waking residents in central Florida, it would be hard for US Air Force officials to deny something had happened.

“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing as we continue to break barriers,” said Brig Gen Wayne Monteith, the 45th SW commander.

“Our team has been preparing for this event for several years, and I am extremely proud to see our hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”

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Donkey Kong and Pokemon join gaming hall of fame

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This year’s inductees span more than 30 years of gaming

Donkey Kong and Pokemon Red and Green have been inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame.

Halo: Combat Evolved and Street Fighter II were also honoured with places in the permanent exhibition at The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.

They join titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog, The Sims, Doom, Pong and World of Warcraft.

Tomb Raider, Resident Evil and Microsoft’s Solitaire were nominated but failed to make the final list.

The hall of fame was established in 2015, covering games played in an arcade, on a console, computer, handheld device or mobile phone.

‘No Mario’

The games are chosen for their popularity, longevity and their influence on gaming, popular culture and society.

Anyone can nominate a game, but the final selection is made on the advice of a panel of journalists, academics and gaming experts.

This year’s winners were chosen from a list of 12 finalists which also included Final Fantasy VII and Wii Sports.

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Pokemon characters like Pikachu have become popular in mainstream culture

Following its release in 1981, an estimated 132,000 Donkey Kong arcade game cabinets were sold around the world – introducing us to an Italian plumber called Mario.

“Without Donkey Kong there would be no Super Mario Bros,” said Jon-Paul Dyson, director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG).

The original Pokemon game, released for the Nintendo Game Boy in 1996, was nominated in 2016 but failed to make that year’s final selection.

Since then, however, the franchise has received a boost in popularity and gained a new generation of fans with the launch of Pokemon Go.

“Two decades after its inception and with the introduction of Pokemon Go, ‘Poke-mania’ shows little sign of fading,” explained The Strong’s associate curator, Shannon Symonds.

Capcom’s Street Fighter II allowed players to battle human opponents, “instantly attracting spectators and generating fierce tournament play”, said Jeremy Saucier, assistant director of ICHIEG.

He added that the “communal style of game play reinvigorated the arcade industry in the 1990s”.

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Microsoft Windows Solitaire was nominated but failed to make the final selection

When Microsoft launched the Xbox in 2001, more than half of the consoles sold came with Halo: Combat Evolved.

The first-person multi-player game sold more than six million copies and has been followed up with sequels and spin-offs including novels and comics.

Ms Symonds said the game was key in showing that consoles could be “just as effective, if not better, than a PC” for high-precision games, as well as “one of the strongest multiplayer experiences of its time”.

With the addition of this year’s four winners, the World Video Games Hall of Fame now has 16 permanent exhibits.

Its first entrants were Doom, Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros, Tetris and World of Warcraft.

In 2016, another six games – Space Invaders, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Legend of Zelda, The Oregon Trail, Grand Theft Auto III and The Sims – were honoured.

Lost at the airport? This robot can help

The robot that helps people lost in the airport or the shopping mall.

Say you are looking for your gate at the airport. How would you feel if a robot came to help you out? That’s what Hitachi have designed EMIEW3 for. The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones went along to meet it.

Debenhams Flowers data breach hits 26,000

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The separate website was not affected, the firm says

Retailer Debenhams has said that up to 26,000 customers of its Flowers website have had their personal data compromised following a cyber-attack.

Payment details, names and addresses were potentially taken during the incident, which targeted Ecomnova, a third party e-commerce company.

Debenhams said it has contacted customers whose data was accessed.

Customers of, a separate website, have not been affected, the company added.

The attack took place between 24 February and 11 April and the Debenhams Flowers website is currently offline.

“Our communication to affected customers includes detailing steps that we have taken and steps that those customers should take,” Debenhams said in a statement.

A spokeswoman told the BBC that emails have been sent to just under 26,000 customers and that this will be followed up with a letter in the post.

“As soon as we were informed that there had been a cyber-attack, we suspended the Debenhams Flowers website and commenced a full investigation,” said Debenhams chief executive Sergio Bucher in a statement.

“We are very sorry that customers have been affected by this incident and we are doing everything we can to provide advice to affected customers and reduce their risk.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been informed of the incident.

‘Unlock iPhone’, says judge in US sextortion case

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Reality TV star Hencha Voigt is accused of extorting Julieanna Goddard

A Florida judge has ruled that two defendants in a sextortion case must hand over the passwords to their mobile phones so officials can search them.

Reality TV star Hencha Voigt and former boyfriend, Wesley Victor, are accused of threatening to release explicit images of social media star Julieanna Goddard unless she paid a ransom.

The defendants said the ruling broke their constitutional rights.

But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Charles Johnson said he was following the law.

“For me, this is like turning over a key to a safety deposit box,” he said on Wednesday.

Prosecutors allege that Ms Voigt and Mr Victor told Ms Goddard to pay them $18,000 (£14,000) within 24 hours, or they would release X-rated videos and photos of her.

Ms Goddard, a party promoter and socialite, is a big name on social media where she goes by the name “YesJulz”.

Ms Voigt is a model and Instagram star who appeared in WAGS Miami, a reality TV show about the wives and girlfriends of sports figures.

Police arrested the defendants last July and seized their phones, having intercepted text messages allegedly sent to Ms Goddard.

But they have been unable to bypass the passwords for Ms Voigt’s iPhone and Mr Victor’s BlackBerry to search for more evidence.

As a result, prosecutors formally asked the court to order the defendants to reveal their passwords.

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Ms Goddard, a party promoter and socialite, is a big name on social media

Lawyers for the defendants said this would violate the Fifth Amendment – the part of US law that means people can not be forced to incriminate themselves.

But prosecutors cited a December court decision that allowed Florida police to force a suspected voyeur to give up his iPhone password.

On Wednesday, Judge Johnson ruled that he had no choice but to follow precedent. “That’s the law in Florida at this point,” he said.

Ms Voigt and Mr Victor have two weeks to comply with the order, or they could be jailed for contempt of court.

They have both pleaded not guilty to charges of extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion and unlawful use of a communication device.

The issue of whether authorities should have the right to access defendants’ phones has sparked controversy recently.

Last year, the US Department of Justice ordered Apple to help unlock the phone used by San Bernardino gunman Rizwan Farook. But Apple fought the order, saying it would set a “dangerous precedent”.

An apparent reported spike in demands by border officials to search visitors’ phones when they arrive in the US also made headlines.

Department of Homeland Security data analysed by NBC News found that agents looked through almost 25,000 phones in 2016.

Bionic hand ‘sees and grabs’ objects automatically

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A bionic hand that “sees” objects and instantly decides what kind of grip to adopt has been developed by scientists.

A computer uses a camera to assess an object’s shape and size to then trigger the correct movement to pick it up.

The technology was developed at Newcastle University and has been trialled by a small number of amputees.

Dr Kianoush Nazarpour, a senior lecturer in biomedical engineering at the university, said the bionic hand can “respond automatically”.

‘Intuitive hand’

The device could spark a new generation of prosthetic limbs giving the wearer the ability to grip objects without the use of their brain, researchers say.

Dr Nazarpour said: “Prosthetic limbs have changed very little in the past 100 years.

“Responsiveness has been one of the main barriers to artificial limbs.

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Dr. Kianoush Nazarpour has praised the “intuitive” hand that can seemingly react without thinking.

“For many amputees the reference point is their healthy arm or leg so prosthetics seem slow and cumbersome in comparison.

“Now, for the first time in a century, we have developed an ‘intuitive’ hand that can react without thinking.”

The team, whose work is reported in the Journal of Neural Engineering, programmed the hand to react within milliseconds and perform four different “grasps” suitable for picking up a cup, holding a TV controller, and gripping objects with a thumb and two fingers or a pinched thumb and first finger.

Microsoft unveils new Surface laptop

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Microsoft has unveiled a new Surface laptop to compete with the Macbook Air.

The device will go on sale on 15 June with a starting price of $999 (£770). It has a 13.5 inch (34cm) screen and 14 hours of battery life, the firm said.

The tech giant also revealed a new edition of its Windows 10 operating system aimed at schools and designed to run on low-cost computers.

Experts said the move was intended to help Microsoft compete with Google in the schools market.

Microsoft Surface boss Panos Panay said the new laptop had a 1080 pixel display and weighed 2.76lb (1.25 kg) – lighter than the Macbook Air.

He also said it would run the new Windows 10S operating system and, despite the price, had been designed with students who were about to leave school in mind.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, said: “Apple’s Macbook Air is also popular with students and it hasn’t produced a new model for a while.

“So this is all about Microsoft trying to steal a march on its old rival.”

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Media captionMicrosoft’s Panos Panay explains how the Microsoft Surface can last up to 14 hours between charges.

Windows 10S promises stronger virus protection and better battery life, and will be available on third party PCs with a starting price of $189.

Microsoft and Apple have long dominated the school computing market, but they have struggled with the recent rise of Chromebooks – low-cost PCs running Google’s Chrome operating system (OS).

According to consulting firm Futuresource, 58% of devices sold to US schools in 2016 were Chromebooks, while 22% ran Windows operating systems and 19% ran Apple ones.

Microsoft said devices using Windows 10S would only run apps provided through the Windows Store, which would help maintain their security and speed.

It also said the OS would be easier for teachers to set up and manage.

Ms Milanesi said: “I think it’s a compelling proposition for schools – but the first question is how easy will it be for schools who have already invested in Chromebooks to make the transition?

She added: “Third party hardware suppliers will be asking what is in this for them, especially if they are making hardware for the Chrome operating system too.

“Microsoft has already convinced some suppliers such as Acer to come on board, but it may have to offer incentives to keep them engaged.”

Twitter signs deal with Bloomberg on rolling video news

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One of Twitter’s first video deals live-streamed NFL games to users

Twitter is working with media firm Bloomberg to create a 24-hour rolling news channel for the messaging service.

The live video stream will be made up of original programming as well as feeds from Bloomberg bureaus.

The deal builds on the live-streaming deals Twitter has done with others that spreads content via the social network.

The deal could also help Twitter compete more with giants such as Google and Facebook, which already make a lot of money from video ads.

Live events

Bloomberg’s chief executive Justin Smith said the video stream would be “broader in focus” than its existing output.

He said it would build on the habits of many Twitter users who send tweets as they watch live events.

“Viewers have already embraced a multi-stream experience with live events and marrying those experiences seemed like a very powerful thing to offer to consumers,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

Twitter’s chief operating officer Anthony Noto said the stream would be designed for mobile audiences so people can focus on it when they see something interesting to them.

The deal builds on other efforts Twitter has made to beef up the live video streaming available via its service. In the first three months of 2017, Twitter broadcast about 800 hours of live video. Many of those streams were connected to specific events.

Neither Twitter nor Bloomberg would be drawn on the terms of the deal. The ad-supported, 24-hour service is due to be working by the autumn.

Schoolboy given goggles to regain sight

Charlie, now eight, started losing his sight aged four, and has only been able to see close up until now.

Charlie Mason can see better than he has for years thanks to new technology.

The goggles use a digital device to magnify what’s in front of the wearer to a massive degree, and work so well that his school are paying for them so he can improve his education.

Charlie, now eight, started losing his sight at four years and has only been able to see things close up until now.

Elon Musk reveals underground road vision

The US entrepreneur and Tesla-founder finds traffic “soul-destroying” – so he’s come up with this.

US entrepreneur Elon Musk has outlined his vision for a tunnel network under Los Angeles and shown how it might work.

The founder of Tesla and Space X said that he was inspired to consider a tunnel system to alleviate congestion because he found being stuck in traffic “soul-destroying”.

Plane in UK’s first double-drone near-miss case

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The Airbus A320 was approaching Heathrow when the incident happened.

A near-miss involving a passenger jet and more than one drone has been reported in the UK for the first time.

The incident happened over east London as an Airbus A320 was approaching Heathrow Airport last November.

A report by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) found the incident had “compromised the safety of the aircraft”.

One pilot also said there would have been a “significant risk of collision” if the jet had been on a different approach path.

The plane was flying at 5,500ft on 20 November when its crew spotted two white, orb-shaped drones nearby.

The pilots “remained in constant visual contact” with the gadgets, which are estimated to have got as close as 500m to the aircraft, according to the report.

Less than 30 minutes later, a Boeing 777 approaching Heathrow flew within 50m of what is believed to have been one of the drones, described as white, about 2m wide and with four prongs.

A report was made to the Metropolitan Police, but the people flying the drones were not found.

The latest report from UKAB said there had been five near-misses between aircraft and drones in one month – bringing the total over the past year to 62.

This included one on the approach to Edinburgh Airport on 25 November, where the drone came within 75ft of the plane.

A collision between the Airbus A319 and the drone was “avoided only by providence”, according to the report, which described it as a category A incident.

‘Flooded with reports’

But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the 20 November case was the first time there had been an incident involving more than one drone.

According to CAA rules, drones must not be flown above 400ft or near airports or airfields.

Earlier this month, police forces in the UK said they were being “flooded” with reports involving drones.

Last year, more than 3,456 incidents involving drones were recorded, compared with only 1,237 in 2015, according to the PA news agency.

Incidents involved include invasions of privacy, disputes between neighbours, and prison smuggling.

BBC exposes flaws in ‘world’s most secure’ email service

Screengrab of Nomx homepage

A BBC Click investigation has thrown doubt on claims that the small, personal email server Nomx can provide “absolute security”.

Created by entrepreneur Will Donaldson, Nomx says it uses the “world’s most secure communications protocol” to protect email messages.

But security analysts cracked the device’s simple passwords and hacked its hardware and software.

Defending itself, Nomx disputed the way the tests were done on its gadget.

Hardware exposed

The Nomx personal email server costs from $199 – $399 (£155 – £310) and its publicity material claims it is designed to handle email communications for consumers.

It says that using a dedicated personal server, users can help to stop messages being copied and hacked as they travel to their destination across the net.

BBC Click asked security researcher Scott Helme and computer security expert Prof Alan Woodward, from the University of Surrey, to scrutinise Nomx. They were asked to assess whether it did let people send messages in a way that was secure against hacking and interception.

The investigation started by taking the device apart to find that it was built around a £30 Raspberry Pi computer. As the operating system for the Pi sits on a removable memory card, Mr Helme was able to download the device’s core code so he could examine it closely.

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Nomx has made strong claims for the protections its devices give to customers

This allowed Mr Helme to run it as if he were the administrator for the device. He discovered that the software packages it used to handle mail were not proprietary and many were very old versions, five years old in one case, harbouring unpatched security bugs. Default passwords found in the code included “password” and “death”.

Mr Helme also found many problems with the web interface Nomx uses to administer the secure email service. This was vulnerable to several widely known and easy to execute attacks that, if exploited, would give attackers control over a target’s Nomx system.

He also found a way to create a hidden administrator’s account on the Nomx box that would allow any attacker to fully compromise the gadget.

In addition, Mr Helme found more than 10 other issues with the Nomx box that left him “horrified” by its approach to security.

The analysis was reviewed by Paul Moore – an experienced tester of secure hardware.

Mr Moore said the Nomx was an “overpriced and outdated mail server” and used one of the “most insecure PHP applications” he had ever encountered.

Update cycle

In an emailed response to Click, Mr Donaldson thanked Mr Helme and Prof Woodward for finding and sharing information about Nomx’s vulnerabilities.

Addressing the issue of old software, he said Nomx planned to let users choose which updates should be applied to their device.

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Scott Helme

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Mr Helme was surprised to find the Nomx uses a Raspberry Pi computer

“We will selectively allow users to pick and choose when that becomes available but today we’re not forcing any types of updates,” he said, adding that updates can introduce vulnerabilities.

“Updates actually cause a cascading effect and now you’re patching patches and that is not a good place to be in,” he told Click.

The default names and passwords found by Mr Helme were used to make it easy for customers to set up their device and they were encouraged to change it afterwards, he said.

Mr Helme said the set-up process for the Nomx was far from easy and at no point was he told to pick a new password.

Late on 27 April, Nomx published a strong defence of its product and disputed the way in which Mr Helme tested the device. Mr Donaldson said Mr Helme’s tests were unrealistic, as they involved actions no typical user would undertake.

Nomx said the threat posed by the attack detailed by Mr Helme was “non-existent for our users”.

Following weeks of correspondence with Mr Helme and the BBC Click Team, he said the firm no longer shipped versions that used the Raspberry Pi.

Instead, he said, future devices would be built around different chips that would also be able to encrypt messages as they travelled.

“The large cloud providers and email providers, like AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail – they’ve already been proven that they are under attack millions of times daily,” he said. “Why we invented Nomx was for the security of keeping your data off those large cloud providers.

“To date, no Nomx accounts have been compromised.”

The BBC Click show dedicated to this investigation will air on 29 April on the BBC News Channel and iPlayer, where it will also be available afterwards.

TalkTalk hack attack: Friends admit cyber crime charges

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Two Staffordshire men admitted charges after an attack on the TalkTalk website

Two friends have admitted their part in a £42m hack attack on the TalkTalk website.

Matthew Hanley, 22, and Connor Allsopp, 20, admitted charges relating to the massive data breach in October 2015.

The Old Bailey heard Hanley hacked into the telecom giant’s website and shared a customer’s personal and financial details with Allsopp.

The pair, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, were told they would be sentenced in May.

Read more news for Staffordshire

Hanley supplied data for hacking to another man and gave Allsopp the personal and financial details of a TalkTalk customer for the use in fraud.

Allsopp admitted supplying a customer’s details for fraud and as well as files for hacking.

Hanley, of Devonshire Drive, denied other charges of hacking into Nasa, the National Climatic Data Centre and another 23 websites including Spotify, Telstra, the RAC and The Eton Collection which were ordered to lie on file.

Allsopp, of Coronation Street, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Judge Michael Topolski QC ordered reports for both defendants and adjourned sentencing until 31 May.

Thai man kills baby on Facebook Live then takes own life

The deaths took place at a deserted hotel in PhuketImage copyright

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The deaths took place at a deserted hotel in Phuket

A Thai man filmed himself killing his baby daughter on Facebook Live, before taking his own life, Thai police say.

The 21-year-old hanged his daughter, and then himself, at a deserted hotel in Phuket on Monday, reportedly after an argument with his wife.

Facebook sent condolences to the family for the “appalling” incident and said that the content had now been removed.

The company pledged a review of its processes after footage of a US killing stayed online for hours this month.

The footage of the Thai killing had also been available on video sharing website YouTube, but the company took it down after the BBC alerted it to its presence.

Social media anger

Relatives of the Thai man, Wuttisan Wongtalay, saw the distressing footage and alerted the police – but the authorities arrived too late to save him and his daughter.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: “This is an appalling incident and our hearts go out to the family of the victim. There is absolutely no place for content of this kind on Facebook and it has now been removed.”

Read more:

Reuters said two videos were posted, at 16:50 (09:50 GMT) and 16:57 on Monday, and were taken down at about 17:00 on Tuesday, roughly 24 hours later. Facebook has yet to confirm the times to the BBC.

Thailand’s ministry of digital economy said it had contacted Facebook on Tuesday afternoon about removing the videos.

Ministry spokesman Somsak Khaosuwan told Reuters: “We will not be able to press charges against Facebook, because Facebook is the service provider and they acted according to their protocol when we sent our request. They co-operated very well.”

YouTube said it had taken down the video within 15 minutes of being told of its presence by the BBC.

Its statement read: “YouTube has clear policies that outline what’s acceptable to post and we quickly remove videos that break our rules when they’re flagged.”

Shortly before the BBC alerted YouTube, the video was showing 2,351 views.

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Media captionUS ‘Facebook killer’ manhunt – what happened?

Thai social media users reacted with anger to the footage, while offering condolences to the family of the girl, BBC Thai editor Nopporn Wong-Anan says.

Devastated relatives of the child, including the mother, picked up the body of the girl and her father from hospital on Tuesday.

Following the US killing, Facebook said it was “constantly exploring ways that new technologies can help us make sure Facebook is a safe environment”.

“We prioritise reports with serious safety implications for our community, and are working on making that review process go even faster,” blogged one of its executives last week.

Analysis: Leo Kelion, BBC technology desk editor

This latest atrocity comes less than a fortnight after a US man bragged on Facebook Live about his murder of a 74-year-old man in Cleveland, having also posted a video of the killing to the social network.

The platform’s chief, Mark Zuckerberg, subsequently acknowledged he had “a lot of work” to do after it emerged the murder clip had remained online for more than two hours despite Facebook having received complaints in the meantime.

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Media captionMark Zuckerberg commented on the Cleveland killing at a conference last week

Prior to that, Facebook Live broadcast the death of a Chicago man who was shot in the neck and head last June, and then in July a woman streamed the death of her boyfriend after he was shot by police in Minneapolis.

There have also been reports of sexual assaults, animal abuse and teenage suicide having been shown.

For its part, Facebook is trying to find ways for its review team – which employs thousands of people – to react to such content more quickly.

In addition, the firm has developed software to prevent such footage being reshared in full on its service at a later point.

And it is also exploring the use of artificial intelligence to automatically flag videos and photos that need to be reviewed rather than waiting for other users to report them.

What it hasn’t discussed is the idea of scrapping Facebook Live altogether.

With Twitter and YouTube, among others, offering rival live-streaming products, doing so could put it at a disadvantage.

But as a result, there will inevitably be further outrages and criticism because Facebook Live’s popularity makes it all but impossible for the firm to keep a human eye over each broadcast.

YouTube restores ‘wrongly blocked’ LGBT videos

YouTube logo

YouTube has modified its content filter after complaints it had blocked political and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) videos.

Restricted mode is an optional filter designed to hide content that may be judged unsuitable for children.

But many prominent LGBT video-makers said their videos had been targeted.

YouTube said it had fixed an error and made more than 12 million “unintentionally filtered” videos available again.

The platform was criticised in March after several video-makers noticed a drop in advertising revenue and realised their content was being blocked in restricted mode.

The wide-reaching filters appeared to block videos referring to sexuality and gender identity, even if the content was not explicit.

“YouTube’s restricted mode has blocked a poem I wrote for a gay friend,” tweeted musician Bry O’Reilly.

Author Tyler Oakley added: “One of my recent videos ‘Eight Black LGBTQ+ Trailblazers Who Inspire Me’ is blocked because of this, I’m perplexed.”

YouTube said it had identified that its systems “were not working as intended”.

“We want to clarify that restricted mode should not filter out content belonging to individuals or groups based on certain attributes like gender, gender identity, political viewpoints, race, religion or sexual orientation,” it said in a blog post.

The company also said it would let people report videos they believed had been unfairly restricted and said it would offer more transparency about the types of content that would be filtered.

It said it would continue to restrict:

  • Discussion of alcohol or drugs, or videos showing alcohol consumption
  • Detailed conversations about sex
  • Music videos with adult themes including sex and drugs
  • Graphic depictions of violence, even in news videos
  • “Mature subjects” such as terrorism, war, crime, and political conflicts
  • “Mature language”

“Though Restricted Mode will never be perfect, we hope to build on our progress so far to continue making our systems more accurate and the overall Restricted Mode experience better over time,” it said.

Three apologises after network problems

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Mobile phone company Three has apologised after some of its customers were unable to make calls or texts.

The company said it had a “temporary network issue” which affected calls and texts during Saturday afternoon and evening.

It said calls had since been restored and that it is working to restore full service.

But some users on Twitter complained of their texts being sent to random numbers instead of their contacts.

A spokeswoman said the company was “currently investigating the cause of the service disruption” and that it apologised for any inconvenience.

It also said that some “customers and non-customers” may have received a message from an unknown sender on Saturday.

In a statement on its website, the company said its advice “is to ignore all text messages that you deem incorrect”.

Three, which has about nine million customers, experienced a data breach last year which saw personal details, including names and addresses, accessed unlawfully.

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Brain Tumour Charity cautious about Italy mobile phone ruling

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The Brain Tumour Charity has said there is insufficient scientific evidence linking mobile phone use with brain tumours, following a court ruling.

The Italian court, in Ivrea, agreed that a man’s brain tumour was linked to his mobile phone use.

It awarded Robert Romero 500 euros (£418/$535) a month in compensation.

He had claimed that using his business mobile phone for three or four hours a day, over a period of 15 years, led to the growth of the benign tumour.

The money will be paid by a body established to compensate people for work-based injuries.

There could yet be an appeal against the ruling, and the legal reasoning behind the judge’s decision is not due to be released for at least a few days.

“We know that many people are concerned about a possible connection between mobile phone use and the development of brain tumours,” said Dr David Jenkinson, chief scientific officer for the Brain Tumour Charity.

“However, the global research projects that have been conducted so far, involving hundreds of thousands of people, have found insufficient evidence that using a mobile phone increases the risk of developing a brain tumour.”

The decision of the court did not change the evidence, he added.

“Of course, it is right that researchers continue to explore whether any such link exists,” said Dr Jenkinson.

Mr Romero, whose profession was not reported, said he wanted people to be more aware about mobile phone use but did not want to “demonise” the devices.

His lawyer, Stefano Bertone from the law firm Ambrosio and Commodo, told the BBC his client currently has no plans to sue any of the handset manufacturers or the mobile phone industry itself.

He added that the firm has other cases in other parts of Italy.

“We have also been approached by an interesting number of people in the last 24 hours saying they have experienced the same kind of thing. And they can show they have accumulative use of mobile phones that’s exceeding 1,000 hours,” he said.

“No-one can pretend with definitive certainty to assess a legal case. Most opponents say there is no scientific certainty so therefore it is not true. That is not the case.”

Mr Bertone highlighted a continuing o study by the National Toxicology Program in the US.

Preliminary findings released in 2016 suggested a “low incidence” of brain and heart tumours in male rats exposed to doses of radiofrequency radiation totalling up to nine hours a day over a two-year period.

However, as it is not finished, the study has not yet been scrutinised by other scientists, a process known as peer reviewing, which is generally considered an essential stage of evaluating research.

Computer pioneer Harry Huskey dies aged 101

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Courtesy of NPL

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Designed by Alan Turing, the Ace computer was built with the help of Harry Huskey

Engineer Harry Huskey, who helped build many of the first ever computers, has died aged 101.

Dr Huskey was a key member of the team that built the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (Eniac) which first ran in February 1946.

Eniac is widely considered to be one of the first electronic, general purpose, programmable computers.

Dr Huskey also helped complete work on the Ace – the Automatic Computing Engine – designed by Alan Turing.

Founding father

The Eniac was built at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1940s and, once complete, was more than 100ft (30m) long, weighed 30 tonnes, used 18,000 valves and 1,500 relays. Programming the massive machine to do different computational tasks involved rewiring its various units. Eniac was built to calculate the trajectory of shells for the US army.

Dr Huskey became involved with the development effort to create Eniac soon after joining Pennsylvania to teach mathematics to Naval recruits. His task was to make the punched card reader for the machine work and to write technical manuals describing how to operate it.

After the war, Dr Huskey travelled to the UK to help Alan Turing refine and complete the Ace. This was built at the National Physical Laboratory and in 1950, when it ran its first program, it was the fastest computer in the world.

He also helped design and build two other machines – the Swac (Standards Western Automatic Computer) and the G-15 which, despite weighing almost a tonne. was known as a personal computer because it could be operated by one person.

Dr Huskey spent his entire academic career involved with computing teaching at the University of California, Berkeley and was one of the founders of the computer science faculty at UC Santa Cruz.

“Harry basically lived through and participated in the entire span of the history of electronic computing,” Dag Spicer, a curator at the Computer History Museum, told the New York Times.

Internet pioneer Robert Taylor dies

Bob TaylorImage copyright
Gardner Campbell/Wikipedia

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Robert Taylor helped bring about the creation of the internet

One of the founding fathers of the internet, Robert Taylor, has died.

While working at the Pentagon in the 1960s, he instigated the creation of Arpanet – a computer network that initially linked together four US research centres, and later evolved into the internet.

At Xerox, he later oversaw the first computer with desktop-inspired icons and a word processor that formed the basis of Microsoft Word.

Mr Taylor died at home aged 85.

His family told the Los Angeles Times that he had suffered from Parkinson’s disease among other ailments.

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Despite the groundbreaking nature of the Alto computer, only about 2,000 were built

Mr Taylor studied psychology at university, but worked as an engineer at several aircraft companies and Nasa before joining the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Project Agency (Arpa) in 1965.

At the time, Arpa funded most of the country’s computer systems research.

In his role as the director of the organisation’s Information Processing Techniques Office, Mr Taylor wanted to address the fact different institutions were duplicating research on the limited number of computer mainframes available.

In particular, he wanted to make “timesharing” more efficient – the simultaneous use of each computer by multiple scientists using different terminals, who could share files and send messages to each other.

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Arpanet went on to connect dozens of research sites after Mr Taylor left the Pentagon

Mr Taylor was frustrated that the Pentagon could only communicate with three research institutions, whose timeshared computers it helped fund, by using three incompatible systems.

So, he proposed a scheme to connect all of Arpa’s sponsored bases together via a single network.

“I just decided that we were going to build a network that would connect these interactive communities into a larger community in such a way that a user of one community could connect to a distant community as though that user were on his local system,” he later recalled in an interview with the Charles Babbage Institute.

“Most of the people I talked to were not initially enamoured with the idea. I think some of the people saw it initially as an opportunity for someone else to come in and use their [computing cycles].”

Nevertheless, he was given $1m (£796,000) to pursue the project.

And in 1968, a year before Arpanet was established, he co-authored a prescient paper with a colleague.

“In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face,” it predicted.

“The programmed digital computer… can change the nature and value of communication even more profoundly than did the printing press and the picture tube, for, as we shall show, a well-programmed computer can provide direct access both to informational resources and to the processes for making use of the resources.”

Sugar supplies

Mr Taylor’s time at Arpa was also spent trying to see whether his country could make use of computer technology to solve logistics problems during the Vietnam war.

The White House had complained that it was getting conflicting reports about the number of enemies killed, bullets available and other details.

“The Army had one reporting system; the Navy had another; the Marine Corp had another,” Mr Taylor later recalled.

“It was clear that not all of these reports could be true.

“I think one specific example was that if the amount of sugar reported captured were true we would have cornered two-thirds of the world’s sugar supply, or something like that. It was ridiculous.”

His efforts led to a uniform method of data collection and the use of a computer centre at an air force base to collate it.

“After that the White House got a single report rather than several,” Mr Taylor said.

“That pleased them; whether the data was any more correct or not, I don’t know, but at least it was more consistent.”

Apple and Microsoft

Once Arpanet was up and running in 1969, Mr Taylor left the Pentagon and the following year he founded the Computer Science Laboratory of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox Parc).

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The Xerox Alto featured the first desktop-inspired graphical interface

There his team built Alto – a personal computer that claims several firsts. It was networked, controlled by a ball-driven mouse and used a graphical user interface (Gui).

Steve Jobs and others from Apple were given an early look, and it went on to inspire them to create the Apple Lisa and later the Apple Mac.

Its software included Bravo – a what-you-see-is-what-you-get word processor. Its primary developer, Charles Simonyi, later joined Microsoft where he created Word.

Despite their achievements, Mr Taylor became frustrated with Xerox’s failure to capitalise on his team’s work and quit in 1983.

“Xerox continued to ignore our work,” he told an interviewer in 2000.

“I got fed up and left, and about 15 people came and joined me at DEC [Digital Equipment Corporation].”

There he helped create AltaVista, an early internet search engine, and a computer language that later evolved into Java.

Mr Taylor continued to dream of new technologies – predicting that the public would one day wear a device that would record everything they saw or heard.

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Mr Taylor’s team at DEC developed one of the first search engines

But he also reflected that his greatest legacy – the internet – had taken longer to catch on than anticipated.

“My timing was awful,” he conceded, adding “I didn’t anticipate [its use for] pornography and crime.”

Google takes Android search blow in Russia

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Google has struck a deal in Russia but is still fighting its case in the EU

Google has promised to allow rivals’ search engines and apps to be pre-installed on phones running its versions of Android in Russia.

The concession follows an out-of-court deal with the country’s competition watchdog.

In addition, Google has promised to develop a tool to make it easy for users to change their device’s default search engine.

Shares in Google’s local Russian rival, Yandex, rose more than 7% on the news.

It brings to an end a long-running battle between the US firm and Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS).

Google had argued the regulator had no case because manufacturers could develop their own versions of Android or pre-install other apps of their choice.

But the FAS had argued that, despite its denials, Google was indeed “prohibiting” rival software to its own YouTube, Maps and Photos apps to be pre-installed alongside its own dominant version of Android.

The agency became involved after Yandex filed a complaint in February 2015.

Despite the nature of the settlement, Google will still have to pay a 438m rouble ($7.8; £6.2m) fine imposed after it failed to appeal the case last August.

“We are happy to have reached a commercial agreement with Yandex and a settlement with Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), resolving the competition case over the distribution of Google apps on Android,” a spokeswoman for Google told the BBC.

Yandex’s chief executive Arkady Volozh declared the settlement “an important day for Russian consumers”.

“I am thankful to the Federal Antimonopoly Service for applying the law in a manner that effectively and efficiently restores competition to the market for the benefit of Russian users, as competition always breeds innovation,” he added.

The EU continues to pursue similar claims against Google, saying the firm is “requiring and incentivising” Android hardware manufacturers to exclusively use its services.

Netflix says opportunity ‘gigantic’ despite slowing growth

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Netflix’ science fiction-horror series Stranger Things, featuring Winona Ryder (centre) and Millie Bobby Brown (second from right), has been a hit

Netflix has grown slower than it expected in the first three months of the year, but insists that the opportunity for growth is “gigantic”.

The streaming firm added 4.95 million new subscribers in the quarter, fewer than the 5.2 million it had forecast.

In the US, the firm added a third fewer new members than the same period a year ago, while overseas members fell 22%.

Netflix blamed the drop partly on shifting some of its popular shows to the second quarter of the year.

The firm said its House of Cards series, which last year debuted in the first quarter but for this year has been pushed into the second quarter, was the main reason for the lower-than-expected subscriber growth.

Netflix said it still expected to add 8.15 million new members in total for the first half of the year, just below the 8.42 it added in the first half of last year.

By this weekend, the firm said it expected to reach 100 million subscribers globally.

“It’s a good start,” said chief executive Reed Hastings.

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Getty Images

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House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, has been pushed into the second quarter this year

He said that the growth of the global internet meant the opportunity for the firm was still “gigantic”, and said the firm planned to continue investing in films and shows aimed at increasing its membership.

“We have come to see these quarterly variances as mostly noise in the long-term growth trend and adoption of internet TV,” he added.

Analysis by Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco

As ever, Wall Street is obsessed with user growth above almost any other metric a technology company can offer.

Netflix didn’t add as many new users in the last quarter as investors had been expecting, both in the US and internationally.

Aggressive marketing is still a huge part of Netflix’s expenditure – $1bn expected this year – so it shows those new subscribers really aren’t coming easy.

But I think things will probably improve this year with the roll-out of the new seasons of House of Cards and Stranger Things, both blockbuster shows that represent the very best of their “Originals” brand.

The firm increased revenues by over a third to $2.64bn for the quarter compared to the first three months of last year, while net income rose to $178m from $28m.

Its shares fell in after-hours trading, dropping 3% with investors disappointed by the slower-than-expected growth.

Netflix said it would continue to focus on original programming, aiming to “please diverse tastes with a wide breadth of content”.

The company started making its own shows in 2013, with House of Cards one of its first big hits and Stranger Things more recently. Netflix plans to spend more on original content this year and reduce outlays on licensed material such as movies.

How a family’s dogs were saved from a fiery death

Lisbonne and Hawaii, Bernese Mountain DogsImage copyright
Christophe Deschamps

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Lisbonne and Hawaii were saved from a house fire thanks to home security tech

Christophe Deschamps was watching a basketball game with his wife and three children when he received an alert on his smartphone.

The home security system told him something was wrong, so he quickly accessed the video feed on his phone.

“I could see smoke,” he says. Their home, in the Wallonia region of southern Belgium, was on fire.

The family’s thoughts immediately turned to their two Bernese Mountain dogs – Lisbonne and Hawaii – locked in the garage. A terrible family tragedy was threatening to unfold.

The video images now showed the smoke getting thicker and brightness coming from flames off-camera.

The fire alarm had already alerted the firefighters, so the Deschamps family rushed home as quickly as they could.

“It was more important for us to save the dogs than the house,” says Christophe. “My wife was crying and panicking, thinking the dogs could die.”

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Christophe Deschamps

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The security camera recorded the progress of the fire in the Deschamps’ home

Fortunately, Lisbonne and Hawaii were saved with just 20cm of air left to breathe above the floor of the smoke-filled garage. But the fire damage to the house took six months to repair.

The dogs’ lucky escape was due to the indoor security camera Christophe had installed.

The smart camera, made by Netatmo, sends alerts when it hears an alarm – whether smoke, carbon monoxide or security – and automatically starts recording.

It is also one of the first smart home cameras featuring face recognition technology capable of distinguishing between people it knows and strangers.

Parents working late can receive alerts when their kids arrive home, for example, and will receive an “unknown face seen” alert if someone breaks in.

The French company says evidence collected by its smart cameras has led to the successful prosecution of burglars.

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Netatmo’s video camera includes facial recognition capability

The connected home security market is expanding fast, with companies such as Withings, Nest, D-Link, Netgear, Philips, Panasonic – not to mention the tech behemoths Apple, Amazon and Samsung – all offering an expanding array of internet-connected smart gadgets, from thermostats to motion-sensitive cameras with infrared and audio capability.

“We put the connected home security market at 95.4 million unit sales in 2016,” says Francesco Radicati, a technology specialist at consultancy Ovum.

“Service providers, such as Qivicon, AT&T Digital Life, and Vivint Smart Home, are selling device multi-packs including multiple sensors, and these are proving very popular.

“We estimate the market will grow to 744 million devices sold in 2021.”

Innovations are coming on to the market thick and fast.

For example, connected light bulb firm LIFX has produced a version that can beam infrared light outdoors, enabling a compatible security camera, such as the Nest Cam Outdoor, to see better in the dark.

The key innovation, however, has been the integration of the smartphone into such connected networks, giving users remote control wherever they have an internet connection.

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Google-owned Nest is developing a suite of connected home devices

But aren’t all these security cameras intrusive and even a little voyeuristic?

Netatmo has addressed this issue by making its Welcome camera programmable, so you can disable recording for individuals you specify. And most camera systems can be disabled remotely.

It isn’t just our homes that technology is helping keep safe.

Cars are also a common target for thieves. This is why Matej Persolja, 33, founded CarLock, a company based in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, and San Francisco in the US.

CarLock’s system plugs into a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and sends an alarm to your phone if your vehicle is moved, the engine starts, it detects unusual vibration, or if the gadget is disconnected.

Mr Persolja started the business after thinking his car had been stolen. It turned out his car had only been moved to make way for construction work taking place in the area.

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CarLock can track your car’s position

“Before I learned that, I was almost certain my car had been stolen and I still remember that awful feeling,” he says.

The CarLock system enables owners to track the location of their car if it has been stolen and also acts like a telematics box recording driving behaviour and the general health of the engine.

And there are a growing number of remote control apps for cars on the market.

Viper’s SmartStart app – currently only available in the US and Canada – enables you to start your car, lock and unlock it, and track its movements remotely using your smartphone.

Remote starting is useful for de-icing your car in the mornings while you get ready for work and have breakfast. Even if someone sees the car running and a thief smashes a window to steal it, the physical key is still needed to drive the car off.

You can also keep an eye on your kids’ driving habits and receive an alert if they take the car beyond a geographical point that you specify.

Ford is even integrating Amazon’s Alexa voice-activated software into its cars, enabling drivers to remotely start their cars with a voice command and personal identification number.

Of course, the elephant in the room with all these connected security products is the risk of being hacked. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre recently demonstrated how a connected doll could be hacked and used to open remote control door locks.

And poorly secured security cameras have been hijacked to carry out web attacks.

How to protect your smart home and all its internet-connected devices will be the subject of a future Technology of Business feature.

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Could digital detectives solve an ancient puzzle?

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For more than two thousand years people have believed that joint pain could be triggered by bad weather, but the link has never been proven.

But now, by harnessing the power of thousands of volunteers, doctors hope to unravel the mystery. And the new technique could offer countless solutions to a whole host of ailments.

“I’m always in pain, 24/7,” says Becky Mason, sitting at home on her sofa in Alsager near Manchester.

Like millions of people around the world she suffers from pains in her muscles and stiffness in her joints.

“I know, if it’s going to be a very damp cold day, it’s likely that my pain is going to be worse.”

She has discussed it with her GP and has always wondered if there really is a link between her pain and the weather.

Becky isn’t alone. The link between joint pain and bad weather has long been suspected by patients and medical professionals alike and the theory dates back at least to Roman times and possible earlier.

“Is it an old wives tale? Am I imagining it?” she asks.

It’s a question she finally hopes to answer, not by visiting a hospital or undergoing tests, but simply by using her smartphone.

Each day she enters information about how she feels into an app on her phone, the phone’s GPS pinpoints her location, pulls the latest weather information from the internet, and fires a package of data to a team of researchers.

On its own Becky’s data is of limited interest, but she isn’t acting alone. More than 13,000 volunteers have signed up for the same study, sending vast quantities of information into a database – more than four million data points so far.

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Volunteers using the ‘Cloudy with a chance of pain app’, developed by data capture firm umotif

The app, called “Cloudy with a Chance of Pain” is part of a research project being run by Will Dixon. He is a consultant rheumatologist at Salford Royal Hospital and has spent years researching joint pain.

“At almost every clinic I run, one or more patients will tell me that their joint pains are better or worse because of the weather” he says, but until now he has never had the means of collecting enough data to find a conclusive answer.

Which is perhaps a good point to explain Will Dixon’s other job title – Professor of Digital Epidemiology.

Traditional epidemiologists study health and disease in particular populations. Usually it means collecting data in person – asking patients to visit you, or heading out into the field. ‘Shoe leather epidemiology’, it is sometimes called.

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University of Manchester

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Professor Will Dixon

But digital epidemiology allows patients to send detailed information over the internet – which means they can do it more regularly, and of course you can get many more people to take part, thousands more; numbers that would be unthinkable using the old methods.

By combing through that data, Professor Dixon hopes it will be possible to find correlations and clues that would have been hidden to doctors just a decade ago. His team will analyse the data over the coming year, and hope to find a definitive answer to the question.

World Hacks is a new BBC team looking at global problems.

We meet the people fixing the world.

The technique isn’t just limited to arthritis research.

Another study underway in the US has recruited more than 20,000 participants using an app that asks them to say “ahhhhhhh” into their phone.

Named mPower, and built using technology developed by British academic Max Little, the project hopes to find out more about the onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease. If the “ahhhhhhh” sound is smooth and unbroken, it has likely come from a healthy patient. But if it breaks and wavers, it could suggest that the patient may have Parkinson’s.

By monitoring the precise pattern and pitch of the noise, it may even be possible to determine how advanced the disease has become, or how strongly its symptoms are being felt at a given moment. Using that information, it could allow patients to take much more specific doses of a drug to help manage the disease. The software is even being used in a clinical trial for a new drug.

And again, it is the accumulation of vast amounts of data, volunteered by thousands of participants, that is making the study possible.

Another app, soon to be launched, will allow users to photograph their plate of food, and use artificial intelligence to work out what’s on the plate. The technology could help people determine the nutritional content of their meal, and allow public health bodies to track how well any particular population is eating.

It is being developed by Marcel Salathe, also a Professor of Digital Epidemiology and founder of what is likely the world’s first lab dedicated to the field of study.

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Marcel Salathe is a professor of digital epidemiology at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

He thinks the discipline could have particular benefits in parts of the world where basic medical infrastructure is lacking, but lots of people have smart-phones. Digital epidemiology could become the reporting network through which sickness outbreaks are initially detected, he says.

But vast amounts of data don’t come without their own unique set of difficulties, he warns.

“The data can be extremely noisy,” he explains. “Dealing with very large data sets and finding a needle in the haystack is very challenging from a technical perspective.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of this new technique is the motivation of the people donating their data.

‘Cloudy with a Chance of Pain’ may never reap rewards for Becky herself, yet she seems quite happy to spend her time putting her data into a smartphone app and then sending this off to a remote location.

“When you’re in pain all the time, it’s easy to get low,” she says “I’m at home and I can’t work which makes me feel useless. But [with this app] I can still be helpful, and that’s so powerful in my tiny little world, it helps me in a massive way.”

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Cyber attacks ‘hit one in five UK firms’

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Firms that don’t adopt the appropriate protections leave themselves open to tough penalties, the BCC says

One in five British firms was hit by a cyber attack last year, research suggests.

Larger firms – defined as those with over 100 staff – were more likely to be attacked than smaller counterparts, said the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which surveyed 1,200 companies.

Its report found 42% of larger firms had been the victim of a cyber attack, compared with 18% of smaller ones.

The business group has urged companies to do more to protect themselves.

Just a quarter of the firms the BCC surveyed said they had put in place security measures to protect themselves against hacking.

“Cyber attacks risk companies’ finances, confidence and reputation, with victims reporting not only monetary losses, but costs from disruption to their business and productivity.

“Firms need to be proactive about protecting themselves from cyber attacks,” said BCC director-general Adam Marshall.

Bank breach

Household names including Yahoo, eBay and TalkTalk have all fallen victim to major cyber attacks.

Last year, Tesco Bank reported losing £2.5m in an unprecedented breach at a British bank.

The law requires organisations to have appropriate measures in place to keep people’s personal data secure.

Next year data protection regulation will be extended, increasing businesses’ responsibilities to protect personal data.

“Firms that don’t adopt the appropriate protections leave themselves open to tough penalties,” warned Mr Marshall.