Google signs $1.1bn HTC smartphone deal

HTC company logoImage copyright
Getty Images

Alphabet’s Google has struck a $1.1bn (£822m) deal with Taiwan’s HTC to expand its smartphone business.

Google will not take a stake in the firm, but some HTC staff will join the Silicon Valley giant.

The Taiwanese company was once a major player in the smartphone market but has struggled to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung.

Google expects the deal to close by early 2018, provided it gets the all clear from regulators.

Shares in HTC were suspended in Taiwan on Thursday ahead of the announcement.

Betting on hardware

Under the deal, Google will acquire a team of people who develop Pixel smartphones for the US company and receive a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property.

“It’s still early days for Google’s hardware business,” the firm’s senior vice-president of hardware Rick Osterloh said in a blog post on Google’s website.

The deal builds on an existing partnership between the two tech companies.

“These future fellow Googlers are amazing folks we’ve already been working with closely on the Pixel smartphone line,” Mr Osterloh said.

Deal benefits

In 2011 Alphabet, then named Google, bought Motorola’s Mobility for $12.5bn, only to sell it on three years later.

Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight said while the HTC deal might “raise eyebrows” given Google’s history with Motorola, it will give the firm valuable design and engineering resources.

“The far bigger risk for Google would be to stand by and do nothing as hardware becomes an all-important means to an end for its core business,” Mr Blaber said.

But the big winner is HTC.

“It’s a much needed investment as HTC struggles to maintain its smartphone business and grow its early start in virtual reality,” he added.

Theresa May to warn tech firms over terror content

Theresa MayImage copyright
Reuters

Technology companies must go “further and faster” in removing extremist content, Prime Minister Theresa May is to tell the United Nations.

She will urge social networks and search engines to act when she addresses the general assembly.

Mrs May will also host a meeting with other world leaders and firms including Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter.

Separately, tech giant Google has said it will give a total of £1m to fund counter-terrorism projects in the UK.

The prime minister has repeatedly called for an end to the “safe spaces” she says terrorists enjoy online.

Ministers have called for limits to end-to-end encryption, which stops messages being read by third parties if they are intercepted, and measures to curb the spread of material on social media.

On Wednesday, the prime minister will hail progress made by tech companies since the establishment in June of an industry forum to counter terrorism.

But she will urge them to go “further and faster” in developing artificial intelligence solutions to automatically reduce the period in which terror propaganda remains available, and eventually prevent it appearing at all.

The UK, France and Italy are to call for a target of one to two hours to take down terrorist content wherever it appears.

‘Best brains in the world’

Internet companies will be given a month to show they are taking the problem seriously, with ministers at a G7 meeting on 20 October due to decide whether enough progress has been made.

A Downing Street source said: “These companies have some of the best brains in the world.

“They should really be focusing on what matters, which is stopping the spread of terrorism and violence.”

Technology companies defended their handling of extremist content after criticism from ministers following the London Bridge terror attack in June.

Google said it had already spent hundreds of millions of pounds on tackling the problem.

Facebook and Twitter said they were working hard to rid their networks of terrorist activity and support.

YouTube told the BBC that it received 200,000 reports of inappropriate content a day, but managed to review 98% of them within 24 hours.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mrs May will say terrorists will never win, but that “defiance alone is not enough”.

“Ultimately it is not just the terrorists themselves who we need to defeat. It is the extremist ideologies that fuel them. It is the ideologies that preach hatred, sow division and undermine our common humanity,” she will say.

‘Mystified’

Google said the UK counter-terrorism fund was part of a $5m global commitment.

The search giant has faced criticism about how it is addressing such content, particularly on YouTube.

The funding will be handed out in partnership with UK-based counter-extremist organisation the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD).

An independent advisory board will be accepting the first round of applications in November, with grants of between £2,000 and £200,000 awarded to successful proposals.

ISD chief executive Sasha Havlicek said: “We are eager to work with a wide range of innovators on developing their ideas in the coming months.”

A spokesman for the Global Internet Forum to Combat Terrorism, which is formed of tech companies, said combating the spread of extremist material online required responses from government, civil society and the private sector.

“Together, we are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that our platforms are not used to distribute terrorist content,” said the spokesman.

Mrs May’s appearance at the UN comes days before she is due to give a major speech on Brexit – a subject that led to repeated questions from journalists on her visit.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was accused of undermining her plans by writing a 4,000-word newspaper article setting out his own vision for Brexit.

Speaking to the Guardian, Mr Johnson said he was “mystified” by the row his article had prompted, saying he had “contributed a small article to the pages of the Telegraph” because critics had been saying he was not speaking up about Brexit.

China Communist Party Youth Twitter account prompts abuse

Screenshot of Twitter account of the China's Communist Party Youth LeagueImage copyright
Twitter / @ccylchina

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The Twitter account appeared to be set up on Friday

Setting up a Twitter account may seem a fairly obvious thing for a political party to do, but the step has not so far worked for an account in the name of China’s Communist Party.

The account, which claimed to be from the party’s youth wing, made its debut on Friday with a chirpy one-liner – “I’m here!” – and a picture of what appeared to be cartoon communist rabbits.

It was immediately met with a barrage of tweets asking how the Party was getting around China’s Twitter ban.

But then late on Monday, the Youth League strongly denied that it had a Twitter account at all.

The Twitter bio for @ccylchina says the account provides “information on the work and activities of the Communist Party Youth League and hot topics among youths”.

It has posted more than dozen times since its launch – in Chinese – covering patriotic topics like the anniversary of the Japanese invasion in 1931 and links to state media articles.

China closely controls what can be posted and seen online, and is steadily tightening its restrictions.

So angry internet users who assumed the account was real responded with questions about how it had managed to circumvent the “Great Firewall” surrounding China’s internet and accusing the youth wing of hypocrisy.

“Go back behind the firewall” and “Give us our VPN” were some of the more popular – and printable – responses to @ccylchina.

Chinese users have always used VPNs to access Twitter and other banned sites by making it seem like their device is in another country.

But dozens of VPN apps have been withdrawn in China in recent weeks after the government issued new rules requiring them to get a licence. It has also been reining in social media and messaging apps in recent months.

“Please tell me what kind of miraculous VPN you’ve used to circumvent the firewall… how brazen you are, you should know that those who do so can be caught!” wrote Twitter user Maoyaodong.

Other criticism referenced Weibo, China’s heavily censored Twitter-like microblogging platform. One user warned: “This isn’t Weibo [where you can] scrub away opinions, get lost.”

The Youth League has now insisted the account is not an official one.

An article in the Party mouthpiece the Global Times said rumours of the existence of the account had gone viral in China, and that it had “asked relevant platform to deal with this issue”.

Some of the tweets were no longer available on Tuesday.

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@ComYouthLeague

It’s not the first Twitter account in the Youth League’s name to appear this month.

@ComYouthLeague. appeared on Twitter on 12 September in a very similar way – with a tweet, announcing “Hello Twitter” – and has also been posting patriotic links and news stories. It met similar questions about firewalls and VPNs.

Apparently in an attempt to male itself look more official, @ccylchina warned its followers that one was a fake account, saying: “Please look for the Central Communist Youth League.”

It posted a picture – crossed out – of a tweet from @ComYouthLeague which talked about respecting China’s internet laws.

The ComYouthLeague responded seeming slightly wounded, saying its post was “not fabricated nor fake” but aimed to reflect “the positive energy that Chinese youth should have”.

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@ComYouthLeague

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The @ComYouthLeague said its post about values was neither “fabricated, nor fake” – but didn’t claim to be real

Neither account has yet gathered a substantial following yet – in fact @ComYouthLeague is slightly ahead with 1,666 followers at the time of writing.

But that’s perhaps unsurprising given the limited Twitter audience in China, where organisations are far more likely to rely on the likes of Weibo to interact with the public.

The Global Times article noted that CCYL already has more than five million followers on its Weibo account and 400,000 on WeChat.

Equifax data breach: Credit rating firm replaces key staff

A view of a sign for the company Equifax on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York,, 12 SeptemberImage copyright
EPA

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Equifax’s share price has fallen by more than a third

US credit report giant Equifax has replaced two senior staff after revealing last week it had suffered a massive data breach.

Data on up to 143 million Americans, about 400,000 Britons and a number of Canadians may have been stolen by hackers between mid-May and July.

The chief information officer and chief security officer have both stood down.

Equifax faces dozens of legal claims over the breach, which the US Federal Trade Commission is investigating.

Social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driving licence numbers for up to 143 million Americans were exposed, the Atlanta-based firm says.

Credit card numbers for about 209,000 Americans and “certain dispute documents with personal identifying information” for some 182,000 Americans were also accessed by the hackers, it adds.

Lenders use data amassed by firms like Equifax to assess the credit worthiness of customers seeking to acquire houses, cars and credit cards.

‘How did you fail?’

Susan Mauldin, chief security officer, retired and was replaced by Russ Ayres in an interim role, while chief information officer David Webb left and was replaced by Mark Rohrwasser in an interim capacity, the firm said.

The changes, made as part of the firm’s review of the cyber security incident breach, were “effective immediately”, Equifax said in a statement.


Recent massive data breaches


The company added that its external investigation was ongoing and it was working closely with the FBI in its criminal probe.

Equifax holds data on more than 820 million consumers as well as information on 91 million businesses.

Its share price has fallen by more than a third since it revealed the breach on 7 September, Reuters news agency reports.

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Senator Warren wants answers

US Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has built up a reputation as a consumer champion, is demanding to know how the firm’s security systems failed.

“Equifax has failed to provide the necessary information describing exactly how this happened, and exactly how your security systems failed,” she said in a letter to the company.

“Equifax’s initial efforts to provide customers information did nothing to clarify the situation and actually appeared to be efforts to hoodwink them into waiving important legal rights.”

The credit rating firm’s chief executive, Richard Smith, has openly apologised for the breach and will testify at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in the US Congress on 3 October.

Equifax says almost 400,000 Britons hit in data breach

EquifaxImage copyright
Reuters

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The massive data breach is being investigated by US and UK data watchdogs

Data about British people “may potentially have been accessed” during the data breach at the US credit rating firm Equifax.

The UK arm of the organisation said files containing information on “fewer than 400,000” UK consumers was accessed in the breach.

Last week, Equifax revealed details of the hack and said data on more than 143 million Americans was taken.

The US Federal Trade Commission is investigating how the data was stolen.

Information released when details of the breach were disclosed suggest that hackers got at Equifax’s internal systems between mid-May and the end of July this year when the company discovered it had been penetrated.

Data on social security numbers, birth dates and addresses, was taken during the incident.

Equifax is now facing dozens of legal claims over the incident.

Protecting data

In a statement, the UK office of Equifax said an internal investigation had shown that data on UK consumers was accessed during the hack.

It said data on Britons was being held in the US due to a “process failure” which meant that a limited amount of information was stored in North America between 2011 and 2016.

The information held included names, dates of birth, email addresses and telephone numbers. No addresses, passwords or financial data was involved.

Equifax said that because the data on UK citizens was limited it was “unlikely” that those affected would suffer identity theft.

It said it would contact those affected and offer them free ID protection services that would alert them to any attempt to carry out fraud with their details.

“We apologise for this failure to protect UK consumer data,” said Patricio Remon, president at Equifax’s UK office, in the statement.

“Our immediate focus is to support those affected by this incident and to ensure we make all of the necessary improvements and investments to strengthen our security and processes going forward,” he added.

It said it was co-operating with the Financial Conduct Authority and the Information Commissioner’s Office on their investigations.

Equifax has set up a website – equifaxsecurity2017.com – to keep people up-to-date with what is happening and to provide advice.

How to make money the Instagram way

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Sulky Doll

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Fashion stylist Donna McCulloch says Instagram “is your shop front”

Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo app, has become a lucrative shop window for many small entrepreneurs. So what are the secrets of its success?

When Facebook bought the photo app Instagram in 2012 for a cool $1bn (£760m), eyebrows were raised at the value the tech giant had placed on this 18-month-old start-up.

Fast forward to 2017, and while Instagram may still be Facebook’s little sister, it has built a sizeable community of 700 million users – dwarfing both Twitter and Snapchat.

With improved photo filters and the addition of Instagram Stories, a feature that lets users upload short videos that disappear after 24 hours, the platform has become a big hit with freelancers and small organisations looking to reach new audiences.

So how can you use it to make money?

“Instagram is your shop front,” says Donna McCulloch, a fashion stylist who works under the name Sulky Doll.

“People don’t ask for business cards any more – they ask for your ‘handle’ [Instagram nickname]. It’s instant – you both get your phones out, and you’re connected.”

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Cat Meffan

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Yoga enthusiast Cat Meffan was “shocked and excited” by Instagram’s marketing power

For yoga instructor Cat Meffan, the glamorous images she posts of herself in impressive yoga positions in picturesque locations around the world are intended to inspire and motivate her 77,000 followers.

But they also help her to build her business.

“I sold out my first yoga retreat in five days and all I did was put up one Instagram post,” she says.

“I was extremely shocked and excited. That’s the power of Instagram.”

Cat says she’ll spend up to an hour crafting the captions alongside her photos – sometimes more than she’ll spend on taking the photo itself.

“Sometimes I’ll go out and do a photoshoot with my partner. But usually it’s me with a self-timer or holding the phone.”

Like Donna, Cat finds adding hashtags to her photos a useful way of reaching a new audience. A search for #yoga, for example, will bring up her images, along with those of others, while Donna’s #OOTD (Outfit of The Day) are by far her most popular.

“It’s a nice way of finding like-minded people,” says Cat.

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Getty Images

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Singer Selena Gomez has 126 million followers on Instagram

Both women also use the Stories feature to post videos which, they say, show them as they really are – an antidote to the artificial gloss that many Instagrammers are notorious for adding to their images.

“Stories allow people to get more of a handle on you as a person and a brand,” says Donna.

“Stories are like peeking behind the net curtains. The biggest compliment is when people say you come across the same in real life as you do on your feed [Instagram page].”

Both Cat and Donna have built their Instagram pages tightly around a very specific theme – yoga/wellness and fashion, respectively.

That’s important if you want to grow the number of people who follow you says Danny Coy, a photographer with 80,000 followers who now also works as an Instagram consultant.

For £300 a month his firm Vibrance says it can “typically” grow an account by 2,000 followers every four weeks. Techniques for attracting followers include posting regularly and having a bank of interesting images to hand.

“You don’t have to post every day, but engagement peaks – after 24 hours it’s done,” he says.

“It’s important to stick to your niche.”

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Danny Coy

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Photographer Danny Coy thinks Instagrammers should stay focused on what they do best

That’s Instagram’s advice, too.

“If you tell a different story every time you come to Instagram people will struggle to understand what you’re trying to communicate,” says Jen Ronan, the firm’s head of small business for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“Make sure you’re thoughtful about what you want your customers to know and ensure that you’re consistently reinforcing this over time.”

Many of Danny’s clients are companies, he says, who want to boost their numbers in order to look “legitimate” on the platform.

“From time to time it’ll be an up-and-coming photographer who feels they can’t get the numbers they deserve,” he says. “Everyone has to start somewhere.”

Instagrammers with a significant number of followers may be approached by brands seeking “influencers” or “ambassadors” to represent them – for a fee.

More Technology of Business

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Incorporating brand products and imagery into photos and videos can be a lucrative sideline, although you have to make clear which content is sponsored under Instagram rules.

Donna McCulloch doesn’t do it: “I think I would lose my integrity,” she says, although she does admit to wearing clothes she’s been given.

“But it’s because I wanted it,” she maintains.

And Cat Meffan says she spends a lot of time “saying no” to brands she doesn’t think are right for her – but she does accept some.

“There’s no set fee in the Instagram world,” she says. “You have a discussion [with the brand] and you have what you think you’re worth.”

Danny McCoy says: “Eighteen months ago I could easily be turning over £2,000-£3,000 a month in terms of influencer content.”

But he says the market is tailing off because brands have wised up. If an Instagrammer tags a brand in a post independently, the brand can use the image without payment.

“Most will ask first,” he says. “But once you’ve tagged them and put it on Instagram they don’t have to ask your permission.”

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Mariann Hardey

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Mariann Hardey thinks the Instagram community doesn’t mind branded content if it’s entertaining

But isn’t it a bit of a turn-off being marketed to by people whose content you admire? And do viewers sometimes not realise they are looking at paid-for content?

Mariann Hardey, assistant professor of marketing at Durham University, thinks the Instagram community isn’t that gullible.

“It’s easy to get het up that influencers are taking over and people don’t understand they are seeing paid content, but the main users of Instagram are extremely savvy at being able to filter content that is branded or sponsored,” she says.

What’s most important is “whether the post is fun” and the pictures are “pretty”, she adds.

So, the consensus seems to be that if the sponsored Instagrammer is well-liked and engaging, and the content is entertaining, Generation Instagram doesn’t mind.

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UK proposes exemptions to Data Protection Bill

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Journalists, financial firms and anti-doping bodies could receive special exemptions from new laws to protect personal data, the government has said.

These “safeguards” would protect the freedom of the press, help prevent fraud and “maintain the integrity of professional sports”.

The proposals are part of a new Data Protection Bill, published on Thursday, which will overhaul UK data laws.

It will impose much heavier fines on those who do not protect personal data.

In most respects the bill, which will come into force next May, will transfer the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation into UK law. The legislation will also be maintained after Brexit.

However, the government said it had negotiated “vital” exemptions to create a more “proportionate” regime for Britain.

‘Freedom of expression’

These would protect professionals in a range of fields, including:

  • Journalists who access personal data on the grounds of freedom of expression and to expose wrongdoing
  • Scientific and historical research organisations, such as museums and universities, from certain obligations that would hinder their work
  • Anti-doping agencies who are trying to catch drug cheats
  • Financial services firms who handle personal data on suspicion of terrorist financing or money laundering
  • And employees who, where justified, access sensitive data without consent to fulfil obligations of employment law

In the example of the press, journalists would continue to enjoy freedoms currently protected under law, a government spokesman said.

These include being able to preserve the anonymity of their sources or access personal data without consent, as long as it is in the public interest.

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Anti-doping bodies would be able to handle an athlete’s personal data without their consent

With regards to anti-doping, agencies would be able to handle an athlete’s personal data without their consent.

This would stop a competitor taking advantage of the new laws, by withdrawing their consent during the testing process.

The government had already unveiled other key provisions of the Data Protection Bill in August, including:

  • Making it simpler for people to withdraw consent for their personal data to be used
  • Letting people ask for data to be deleted
  • And making re-identifying people from anonymised or pseudonymised data a criminal offence

In addition, UK firms that suffer a serious data breach could be fined up to £17m or 4% of global turnover.

The current maximum fine firms can suffer for breaking data protection laws is £500,000.

Apple iPhone X: the internet reacts

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Media captionWATCH: Dave Lee gets hands on with the new iPhone X

When Apple chief Tim Cook declared the iPhone X “the biggest leap forward since the first iPhone” at his latest launch extravaganza, you couldn’t help but wonder if he was referring to its features or its price.

With the top-end model costing £1,149, customers are paying a premium to swap their fingerprint sensor for a facial scanner and the ability to make an animated monkey or poo emoji copy their bemused looks.

In opting to refer to the model as “ten” rather than “x”, the firm has also thrown its naming convention into a bit of confusion – will there ever be an iPhone 9 – or indeed IX?

Of course, that’s a problem for another day. And the internet has had plenty else to chew over in the meantime…


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Some critics believe the iPhone X makes the new iPhone 8 models look outdated

Cnet

The two biggest questions for me focus on the iPhone X’s most daring design change, ditching the home button. Will actually make the phone more convenient to use? And will using your face to unlock the phone benefit you, or is it just a workaround?

The Verge

The iPhone X may be the most powerful iPhone ever, but compared to almost any other Android flagships, it’s hard to pick out a category where it leads the pack – at least on paper when comparing raw specifications. But if Apple has shown one thing time and again with every iPhone generation, it’s that optimisation of hardware and software matter just as much – if not more.

Wall Street Journal

The iPhone X’s new design – a 5.8in, edge-to-edge display -has raised hopes that it can reverse Apple’s fortunes in China, where sales have fallen six straight quarters. Chinese consumers are more influenced by a phone’s appearance than consumers in other markets, and Apple had kept the same appearance for three years.

Bloomberg

A $1,000 iPhone could add as much as 6% to Apple’s 2018 earnings per share… but that depends on the iPhone X being a hit, and there’s more competition from lower-cost Chinese competitors such as Huawei and Xiaomi, which timed the introduction of their new phones around Apple’s launch to attract customers who may be deterred by the iPhone X’s price.

Slashgear

Apple has crafted a stunning new flagship. In a time when existing iPhones were starting to look a little – dare I say – pedestrian in comparison to what Samsung, LG, and others were doing in hardware, the iPhone X has accelerated through and can spar with the best of them.

Engadget

What did bother me a little more than expected were the bezels that run around the screen… Given that Apple’s competition has done an incredible job trimming the cruft from around their displays, I can’t help but feel that the iPhone X’s design doesn’t have the same kind of impact as, say, the Essential or Samsung’s recent Galaxys.

Wired

The very notion of using your face as the key to your digital secrets presents some fundamental problems… It’s very hard to hide your face from someone who wants to coerce you to unlock your phone, like a mugger, a customs agent, or a policeman who has just arrested you. In some cases, criminal suspects in the US can invoke the Fifth Amendment protections from self-incrimination to refuse to give up their phone’s passcode. That same protection doesn’t apply to your face.

Financial Times

All the focus today was on the innovations in the X.But it all made the new 8 look like a rather boring, “plain old” iPhone – and the price for that has just gone up $50 as well.

Techcrunch

The X is the best iPhone, no questions, and it’s quickly jumped to the top of the best phones, period. Yeah, it’s going to cost you, but you already knew that.


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Media captionWATCH: Apple’s event in two minutes

Twitter:

“I gaze into the iPhone and the iPhone gazes back at me” – Nietzsche. @ericasadun

I’m not sure how the iPhone X face recognition will distinguish between me with make-up and without make-up. Because the difference is real. @kandeejohnson

So if you were sleeping and your girl picks the iPhone X and puts it in your face, it just unlocks it yeah? Lol. Thanks Apple. But no, thanks. @DrOlufunmilayo

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Twitter

I think the leaks spoiled the iPhone X keynote, but Apple also didn’t do enough to show why augmented reality matters. @tomwarren

The choice is simple: The iPhone X or 363 coffees. @joshtgoossen

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Twitter

Releasing the iPhoneX and 8 at the same time is strange, surely those who get the 8 will feel they’ve not got the latest iPhone. @Mr_Iconic

The iPhone X is over a thousand dollars but I get to make myself into a poop emoji, so ya, it’s worth it. @donaldcookie


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Facebook

iPhone X has facial recognition. It’ll look at your face and tell you that you can’t afford it. – Abhimanyu Singh

Face ID seems like an over-engineered fix that they were forced to include because they couldn’t integrate a fingerprint scanner into the screen – Nick Farina

How on earth can they justify the same price in $s as in £s… utterly shameful! I wont’ be buying on that basis alone. – Darren Taylor

They made the 8 almost identical to the 7 so people would have to spend the extra money for the X. And I’m sure I’ll buy one even though I know what they did. – Patrick Michael


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Media captionWATCH: A hands on with the new iPhone 8 Plus

Reddit

Apple isn’t the first in facial recognition (by a long shot) but they will without a doubt make facial recognition competitive by making it better. This is how they always work. – Leprecon

The lack of any fingerprint reader could cause problems for people who either cover their face for religious or professional reasons as well as for blind people. Really hoping Apple thought about these issues. – danius353

The iPhone home button was what made it look like a iPhone. The little round button was so iconic. Now the iPhone X looks like any other phone really especially if you put a case on it. – Ihavefallen

X2? XS? What are they going to call the next one? – Alteran195

iPhone X: 10 key moments leading up to the new handset

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Attendees at the original iPhone’s unveiling could look at but not touch the handset

Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone launch is expected to be the biggest single upgrade the handset has seen since its launch.

A revamped design with an edge-to-edge display, facial recognition ID system and advanced augmented reality features is expected.

Several analysts have predicted the asking price for the top-end models will hit new heights too.

In a world in which the smartphone has become ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget how much of a surprise Steve Jobs’s unveiling of the original was a decade ago, and how divided opinion was about whether it was truly a game-changer.

To mark the occasion, we have picked 10 key moments from its past.


1. 2004: The birth of Project Purple

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Apple

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This design – codenamed Purple – was created by Apple’s designers in August 2005

After the success of first the iMac and then the iPod, Apple began developing a tablet as its next breakthrough product.

But around 2004, ex-iOS chief Scott Forstall recalls having a critical conversation over lunch with chief executive Steve Jobs.

“We were both using our phones and hated them,” he told an audience earlier this year.

“We looked around, and like everyone around us has a phone, and everyone looks very angsty as they’re using them.

“And Steve said, ‘Do you think we can take that demo we are doing with the tablet and multi-touch and shrink it down to something… small enough to fit in your pocket?'”

This prompted Apple’s engineers to create a basic contacts app that was constrained to a corner of the prototype tablet’s display.

“The second [Steve Jobs] saw this demo, he knew this was it,” Mr Forstall said. “There was no question. This was the way a phone had to behave.”

As a legal filing would later reveal, by August 2005 Apple’s industrial designers had already created a concept form factor – codenamed Purple – that is recognisable as the basis for the iPhone that followed.


2. July 2008: First iOS App Store apps released

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Erica Sadun

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One of the original third-party iPhone apps is still available via the App Store

There are now well over two million native apps available for the iPhone’s iOS operating system, and most owners have several pages and folders worth of the programs.

But for a while, after the first iPhone launched, there weren’t enough to fill even a single screen.

That’s because third-party developers were initially limited to creating software that ran within the device’s web browser. Steve Jobs reportedly believed policing a native app marketplace would be too complicated.

It wasn’t until more than a year after the handset went on sale that the App Store was launched.

And history was made on 9 July when Apple made a handful of native apps live in advance of the marketplace opening its virtual doors.

Among them was Moo – a cow sound simulator – from Denver-based developer Erica Sadun.

“I had come from the jailbreak community [in which developers modify smartphones to add capabilities], which put a lot of pressure on Apple to have its own store,” Ms Sadun said.

“The App Store completely revolutionised how independent developers could create businesses, monetise their product and present it to a community of people that was larger than anybody had ever dreamed of.

“It created a gold rush that I don’t think we are ever going to see again.”


3. September 2008: HTC Dream unveiled

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HTC

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The original Android phone did not feature multi-touch capabilities

It sounds fanciful now, but once upon a time Google’s chief executive was a member of Apple’s board of directors.

Eric Schmidt did not resign from the post until 2009, but his days were numbered as soon as the first commercial Android phone was announced.

The HTC Dream offered features the iPhone still lacked, including copy and paste, Street View and multimedia messaging.

And while reviews were tepid – suggesting it was “best suited for early adopters” – they recognised the potential of a more open smartphone platform to iOS.

Curiously, the Dream was theoretically capable of supporting “multi-touch” gestures – recognising how many fingers were in contact with the screen – but the feature was disabled.

That was probably because Apple had patented the technology.

When HTC added the feature to a follow-up handset in 2010, Steve Jobs was infuriated.

“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product,” he subsequently told his biographer Walter Isaacson.

“I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this.”


4. February 2010: Siri app released by SRI

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Siri allowed Apple to enter the Search market

These days, Apple spends millions making adverts starring Siri and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, among other celebrity co-stars.

But when the virtual assistant was first released on iOS, it was a relatively low-profile app from a fairly obscure Californian research institute, which had been part-funded by the Pentagon.

Its business model was to charge restaurants and event promoters a fee for any voice-controlled bookings made for their businesses, and the plan was to release follow-up versions for Android and Blackberry.

But that changed two months after its launch, when Apple bought the technology, reportedly for more than $200m (£150m).

The app remained live on the App Store until October 2011, at which point an upgraded version became an exclusive feature for the newly launched iPhone 4S.


5. June 2010: The first selfie iPhone

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The iPhone 4’s front camera took only 0.3 megapixel photos

When the iPhone 4 was released, reviews highlighting its addition of a front camera focused on its use for video calls rather than self-portraits.

Perhaps that was understandable. Although the word “selfie” had already been coined, it had yet to become commonplace.

And while the iPhone 4 was not the first handset to feature a camera on both its sides – Sony Ericsson did so in 2003 – it can claim to have been a driving force in the rise of selfie culture.

“The iPhone 4 was important as you had a device that was very easy to use, a big teen demographic with access to it, and an explosion of mobile apps,” said Charles Arthur, author of Digital Wars.

“It’s a classic example of unintended consequences.

“Now, the selfie has taken over from the autograph.

“Watch people at any public event where they are meeting stars, and they’re always trying to get a selfie with them.”


6. October 2011: The death of Steve Jobs

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Steve Jobs died from a rare form of pancreatic cancer

When Tim Cook – rather than Steve Jobs – unveiled the 4S on 4 October 2011, he faced criticism for his performance. The BBC even accused him of appearing “dull”.

What wasn’t apparent at the time was that Mr Cook must have been aware that his mentor and friend Steve Jobs was close to death.

He died the next day.

It is likely that Apple would have collapsed had Mr Jobs not returned in 1997 to the company he had co-founded, meaning there would never have been an iPhone.

Or had he not subsequently stayed at Apple, it’s possible the company’s engineers might have pursued a rival mobile phone design based around the iPod’s click wheel.

Certainly, since his death, Apple has yet to launch a product that has come anywhere close to achieving the iPhone’s level of success, and some question whether it ever will.

Mr Jobs’s last public appearance was at Cupertino City Council in June 2011, where he sought permission for Apple to build a new headquarters.

The new iPhone will be the first product to be launched at the new campus, within an event space called the Steve Jobs Theater.


7. April 2012: Facebook’s $1bn takeover of Instagram

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If ever proof were needed of the disruptive economic impact of the iPhone, the takeover of Instagram provided it.

The app had been in existence only 18 months when the deal was announced. It had just 13 employees and had been an iOS-exclusive until the week before the revelation.

Its takeover provided a bonanza to both Instagram’s investors as well as to other smartphone-related start-ups seeking venture capital cash.

At the time, many thought Facebook had wildly overpaid. Now, as Instagram sucks in ever more advertising dollars while offline media’s funding struggles worsen, it seems like a bargain.

Other apps that debuted on the iPhone – including Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb – have shaken up industry in other ways.

And by one estimate, the total value of the global app economy – including software sales, advertising and mobile commerce – was $1.3tn (£993bn) for last year.


8. July 2012: Apple buys AuthenTec

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It took Apple just over a year to add AuthenTec’s technology to its iPhones

Apple’s $356m takeover of a fingerprint sensor chip-maker in 2012 caused a particular problem for Samsung.

The South Korean company was already using the Florida-based company’s components in its laptops and had just announced a deal to add another of its security products to its Android phones.

But while the idea of frustrating its arch-rival probably had some appeal, the biggest benefit to Apple was the ability to launch its Touch ID system in 2013’s iPhone 5S.

As reviews noted, previous attempts to introduce fingerprint scanning to phones had proven “unreliable, often causing more aggravation than they’re worth” but the new system worked “pretty much flawlessly”.

Initially, the feature was limited to being used to unlock the phone and make digital purchases from Apple.

But it later made it possible for the company to introduce Apple Pay and add security to third-party apps without requiring the hassle of typing in a password each time.

One side-effect of the sensor’s success is it may have prolonged the life of a physical home button on the iPhone.

If rumours are to be believed, Apple has struggled to replace it with a part that could be hidden beneath the screen and may be about to replace it altogether with facial recognition scans on the iPhone X.


9. August 2013: Steve Ballmer says he is stepping down as Microsoft chief

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Although Windows Phone achieved a double-digit market share in Europe, it never looked like it would outsell the iPhone

In 1997, Microsoft threw Apple a lifeline by taking a $150m stake in the failing company.

Apple returned the favour by launching a product that Microsoft first failed to properly understand and then struggled to match.

Chief executive Steve Ballmer famously laughed at the iPhone’s prospects after he first heard about it.

“That is the most expensive phone in the world, and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard,” he said in 2007.

Six years later, he announced the takeover of Nokia’s phone business for 5.4bn euros ($6.5bn; £5bn) in an attempt to catch up, only for the sum to be written off in 2015 after he had departed and his successor finally accepted Windows Phone was a flop.

The irony is that if Microsoft’s stake in Apple had not been sold off under Mr Ballmer, it would now be worth more than $40bn and he might have shared in its success.

“Like so many other people, Steve Ballmer completely underestimated the impact of the iPhone,” said Ben Wood, from the CCS Insight consultancy.

“His arrogant dismissal has certainly come back to haunt him.”


10. July 2016: Pokemon Go released

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Pokemon Go fever is now well past its peak, and the app more likely to make headlines for botched events than rare monster sightings.

But its legacy has been to prove that augmented reality (AR) apps – in which graphics are mixed with real-world views – can have mass appeal.

AR actually dates back to 2009 on the iPhone, when a French developer created an app that shows nearby shops and other points of interest in Paris.

But it’s set to come of age with the imminent release of iOS 11, which includes ARKit – software that makes it easier for developers to anchor graphics to the world beyond and take account of its lighting conditions.

Several demos released in advance have looked impressive, not least a version of PacMan where you walk through the maze.

The question remains whether users will be satisfied experiencing the action on their iPhones, or whether Apple will feel compelled to release an accompanying headset to let them go hands-free.

Apple suffers ‘major iPhone X leak’

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Developers are still scouring the leaked code for fresh discoveries

Details of new iPhones and other forthcoming Apple devices have been revealed via an apparent leak.

Two news sites were given access to an as-yet-unreleased version of the iOS operation system.

The code refers to an iPhone X in addition to two new iPhone 8 handsets. It also details facial recognition tech that acts both as an ID system and maps users’ expressions onto emojis.

One tech writer said it was the biggest leak of its kind to hit the firm.

Apple is holding a launch event at its new headquarters on Tuesday.

The California-based company takes great efforts to keep its technologies secret until its showcase events, and chief executive Tim Cook spoke in 2012 of the need to “double down” on concealment measures.

Some details about the new devices had, however, already been revealed in August, when Apple published some test code for its HomePod speakers.

But while that was thought to have been a mistake, it has been claimed that the latest leak was an intentional act of sabotage.

“As best I’ve been able to ascertain, these builds were available to download by anyone, but they were obscured by long, unguessable URLs [web addresses],” wrote John Gruber, a blogger known for his coverage of Apple.

“Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I’m nearly certain this wasn’t a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee.”

Neither Mr Gruber nor the two Apple-related news sites have disclosed their sources.

However, the BBC has independently confirmed that an anonymous source provided the publications with links to iOS 11’s gold master (GM) code that downloaded the software from Apple’s own computer servers.

GM is a term commonly used by software firms to indicate that they believe a version of a product is ready for release.

“More surprises were spoiled by this leak than any leak in Apple history,” Mr Gruber added.

Apple could not be reached for comment.

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Apple chief Tim Cook has publicly discussed his desire to protect Apple’s secrets

Several developers are still scouring the leak for new features, but discoveries so far include:

  • a reference to iPhone X, which acts as fresh evidence that Apple intends to unveil a high-end model alongside more modest updates to its handset line
  • images of a new Apple Watch and AirPod headphones
  • a set-up process for Face ID – an alternative to the Touch ID system fingerprint system – that says it can be used to unlock handsets and make online purchases from Apple, among other uses
  • the introduction of Animoji – animated emoji characters that mirror a user’s captured facial expressions

It marks the second time in three months that the company seems to have been deliberately caught out by a staff member.

In June, an hour-long recording of an internal meeting – ironically about stopping leakers – was passed onto the Outline news site.

It revealed that Apple had hired ex-workers from the US National Security Agency (NSA), FBI and Secret Service to help catch tattletales.

“I have faith deep in my soul that if we hire smart people they’re gonna think about this, they’re gonna understand this, and ultimately they’re gonna do the right thing, and that’s to keep their mouth shut,” one senior Apple executive was heard to say.

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Apple’s mobile devices account for the bulk of its profits

One company watcher said that the scale of the leak meant Tuesday’s launch had lost some of its power to surprise.

“There will be an unbelievable effort within Apple to determine how this happened and I don’t envy the person that did it because there will be no forgiveness for it,” commented Ben Wood from the tech consultancy CCS Insight.

But he added that it was unlikely to affect sales or interest in the new devices.

“For other companies this might have huge impact on the effectiveness of their grand official launches, but for Apple there is such insatiable demand for even the smallest details and such an obsessive fan-following of is products that even a very detailed leak will do little to dampen the enthusiasm of bloggers and others to report its news,” he said.

YouTubers condemned for jumping from driverless train at London’s Canary Wharf

Two YouTubers who jumped off the roof of a train in east London have been condemned by British Transport Police.

Rikke Brewer leapt from the top of a Docklands Light Railway carriage after leaving Heron Quays in Canary Wharf.

The video shows Rikke and a friend climbing on top of the driverless train before jumping into a dock in front of diners at a Café Rouge restaurant.

British Transport Police (BTP) says it’s opened an investigation and called the stunt “reckless and illegal”.

Warning: Third party content, may contain ads

In a statement sent to Newsbeat, Superintendent Chris Casey said: “We completely condemn the dangerous actions of these two boys. They risked their lives and the lives of others for the sake of a YouTube video.

“Our officers have experienced first-hand the devastation that families are left with when a loved one is killed or seriously injured on the railway.

“Behaviour such as this is not worth the risk.

Rikke and a friend jumped into Middle Dock at London's Canary Wharf

“We are currently in the process of making enquiries regarding this video and the illegal actions of the two people who so-called ‘train surfed’ on top of the DLR train.

“We would ask that anyone who has any information contacts us by sending a text to 61016 or by calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 227 of 06/09/2017.”

Rikke and a friend jumped into Middle Dock at London's Canary Wharf

Image caption Rikke and a friend jumped into a narrow stretch of water at Middle Dock in Canary Wharf

British Transport Police officers are shown chasing the pair afterwards, who escape into a nearby shopping centre after pulling themselves out of the water.

The person filming the stunt can be heard telling Rikke to hurry up and run.

An hour later they’re shown back inside a train carriage.

Rikke Brewer

“OK guys,” he says. “I hope you enjoyed that. I would not advise anyone else to copy what we do. Stay safe out there guys.

“That was insane. Hope you guys loved it. Peace out.”

Rikke Brewer has previously filmed himself climbing the Blackpool Tower and Twickenham rugby union stadium, in south-west London.

Find us on Instagram at BBCNewsbeat and follow us on Snapchat, search for bbc_newsbeat

‘Serious’ security flaws found on official UK tax site

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Reporting the website flaws took far longer than finding them

The UK tax office must improve its handling of website security problems, says an expert who spent 57 days trying to report a bug.

The researcher, called Zemnmez, found two separate flaws on HMRC’s online tax service.

He said finding who to report the issues to was more challenging than finding the bugs.

HMRC said it had addressed the problems and was looking at improving ways for people to get in touch.

Zemnmez said exploiting either flaw could have let attackers view or modify tax records or harvest key details from Britons.

“I spent days reaching out to half a dozen different government social media accounts attempting to find where the right place to go was and got nothing meaningful in response,” he told the BBC.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre – contacted through friends with intelligence connections – was key in helping get the security problems solved, he added.

Common weakness

Clues that the HMRC site was vulnerable to attack were picked up by Zemnmez as he was using the site to check his taxes.

His expertise and experience in finding similar bugs on other websites suggested that the way the HMRC log-in system interacted with his browser left it vulnerable to some well-known attacks.

After a short period of experimentation, he found that it was possible to use the HMRC site as a “forwarding service” and send a victim to any site an attacker wanted.

“This could be used to coax the victim into revealing financial information, credentials and usernames and passwords,” he said.

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Finding the flaws involved digging in to the code of the HMRC site

This type of bug is known as an open redirect vulnerability and is a common weakness found on lots of different sites, he added.

The second security issue took longer to uncover, said Zemnmez, but was potentially more damaging as, if exploited, it could give an attacker control over a victim’s information, potentially letting them modify it.

Ironically, he said, the code vulnerable to this serious bug was found in a website script used to digitally fingerprint users for fraud protection.

Exploiting this bug would have been much trickier for cyber-thieves, he said, adding that it was likely that anyone interested in attacking the HMRC site would use more straightforward methods to get people to hand over information.

‘Very frustrating’

In response, an HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC has addressed the vulnerabilities mentioned in this article and we undertake regular testing of our systems.”

He added: “HMRC takes the protection of customer data very seriously and invests heavily to secure our services.”

Zemnmez said that although finding the security issues was straightforward, tracking down people in government that could help fix them proved to be “very frustrating”.

While trying to report the issues he found, Zemnmez discovered that the UK government does run a “responsible disclosure” programme that seeks reports of problems with government sites and services.

However, he said, the fact that it was invitation-only limited its usefulness.

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The National Cyber Security Centre advises UK government on security

“I understand the significant difficulties involved in these programmes,” he told the BBC. “If a programme were opened to the public to disclose issues without very significant and robust preparation, it would quickly become totally overwhelmed by the volume of reports, both valid and invalid.”

Despite this, he said, there should be a way for government to handle reports from seasoned security experts who let them know about problems with the most sensitive official systems.

The HMRC said it was in close contact with the NCSC about the way it handled security.

It said: “HMRC is working with the NCSC to ensure that there is a single route for reporting security vulnerabilities to government.

“HMRC is also working to ensure that our internal processes are better streamlined to ensure that those reporting vulnerabilities are contacted in good time.”

About 143m customers affected by massive Equifax cyber incident

A participant looks at lines of code on a laptop on the first day of the 28th Chaos Communication Congress (28C3) - Behind Enemy Lines computer hacker conference on December 27, 2011 in Berlin, Germany.Image copyright
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About 143 million US customers of credit report giant Equifax may have had information compromised in a cyber security breach, the company has disclosed.

Equifax said criminals accessed data such as Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses during the incident.

Some UK and Canadian customers were also affected.

The firm’s core consumer and commercial credit databases were not accessed.

Equifax said hackers accessed the information between mid-May and July, when the company discovered the breach.

The hackers accessed credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers, among other information.

The company said it would work with regulators in the US, UK and Canada on next steps. It is also offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection for a year.

The breach is one of the largest ever reported in the US.

Yahoo last year said about 1 billion user accounts may have been affected in an incident dating back to 2013. About 145 million eBay accounts were compromised in a 2014 breach.

Equifax chief executive Richard Smith said the incident was “disappointing” and “one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do”.

“I apologise to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” said chairman and chief executive Richard F Smith.

“We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations.”

FCC closes virus upload loophole on its website

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The FCC is taking steps to improve the security of its website after internet users spotted a serious vulnerability

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken steps to secure its website after users discovered they could upload malware to it.

On Thursday, security researchers discovered a function connected to the US government agency website’s comment system that let them upload files.

The site allowed anyone to sign up to obtain a software key that let them upload the files they wanted.

The FCC said there was no evidence malware had actually been uploaded.

“The FCC comment system is designed to maximise inclusiveness and part of that system allows anyone to upload a document as a public comment, which is what happened in this case,” the FCC told the BBC.

“The Commission has had procedures in place to prevent malware from being uploaded to the comment system. And the FCC is running additional scans and taking additional steps with its cloud partners to make sure no known malware has been uploaded to the comment system.”

At the time of writing it is no longer possible to upload files in this manner, the communications watchdog said.

In plain sight

The bug emerged in what is known as application programming interface (API) available via the FCC site.

APIs are a well established technology and let developers interact via the web with the data that organisations hold and the services they offer.

While the comment system was easy for members of the public to use and upload files to when making complaints to the watchdog, the API was not meant to be publicly accessible.

However, anyone who knew where to find the API on the FCC’s website could request access to it. Documentation explaining how to upload documents was also publicly available on the site.

Security researchers experimented with the API, filling in forms to request access to keys that let them use it via email.

When they received the key, the users were surprised to find that they were able to upload any file type they liked to the website, whether the files were documents, music files or executable code.

The programmers claimed they were able to upload files as big as 25MB in size, Guise Bule, the editor of Contratastic magazine wrote on website Medium.

Catching the hackers in the act

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Attack bots scan net address ranges looking for vulnerable servers

Cyber-criminals start attacking servers newly set up online about an hour after they are switched on, suggests research.

The servers were part of an experiment the BBC asked a security company to carry out to judge the scale and calibre of cyber-attacks that firms face every day.

About 71 minutes after the servers were set up online they were visited by automated attack tools that scanned them for weaknesses they could exploit, found security firm Cyber Reason.

Once the machines had been found by the bots, they were subjected to a “constant” assault by the attack tools.

Thin skin

The servers were accessible online for about 170 hours to form a cyber-attack sampling tool known as a honeypot, said Israel Barak, head of security at Cyber Reason. The servers were given real, public IP addresses and other identifying information that announced their presence online.

“We set out to map the automatic attack activity,” said Mr Barak.

To make them even more realistic, he said, each one was also configured to superficially resemble a legitimate server. Each one could accept requests for webpages, file transfers and secure networking.

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The attack bots look for well-known weaknesses in widely used web applications

“They had no more depth than that,” he said, meaning the servers were not capable of doing anything more than providing a very basic response to a query about these basic net services and protocols.

“There was no assumption that anyone was going to go in and probe it and even if they did, there’s nothing there for them to find,” he said.

The servers’ limited responses did not deter the automated attack tools, or bots, that many cyber-thieves use to find potential targets, he said. A wide variety of attack bots probed the servers seeking weaknesses that could be exploited had they been full-blown, production machines.

Many of the code vulnerabilities and other loopholes they looked for had been known about for months or years, he said. However, added Mr Barak, many organisations struggled to keep servers up-to-date with the patches that would thwart these bots potentially giving attackers a way to get at the server.

During the experiment:

  • 17% of the attack bots were scrapers that sought to suck up all the web content they found
  • 37% looked for vulnerabilities in web apps or tried well-known admin passwords
  • 10% checked for bugs in web applications the servers might have been running
  • 29% tried to get at user accounts using brute force techniques that tried commonly used passwords
  • 7% sought loopholes in the operating system software the servers were supposedly running

“This was a very typical pattern for these automatic bots,” said Mr Barak. “They used similar techniques to those we’ve seen before. There’s nothing particularly new.”

As well as running a bank of servers for the BBC, Cyber Reason also sought to find out how quickly phishing gangs start to target new employees. It seeded 100 legitimate marketing email lists with spoof addresses and then waited to see what would turn up.

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Phishing gangs were quick to find new email addresses and start sending booby-trapped messages

After 21 hours, the first booby-trapped phishing email landed in the email inbox for the fake employees, said Mr Barak. It was followed by a steady trickle of messages that sought, in many different ways, to trick people into opening malicious attachments.

About 15% of the emails contained a link to a compromised webpage that, if visited, would launch an attack that would compromise the visitor’s PC. The other 85% of the phishing messages had malicious attachments. The account received booby-trapped Microsoft Office documents, Adobe PDFs and executable files.


Brian Witten, senior director at Symantec research

We use a lots of honeypots in a lot of different ways. The concept really scales to almost any kind of thing where you can create a believable fake or even a real version of something. You put it out and see who turns up to hit it or break it.

There are honeypots, honey-nets, honey-tokens, honey anything.

When a customer sees a threat that’s hit hundreds of honeypots that’s different to when they see one that no-one else has. That context in terms of attack is very useful.

Some are thin but some have a lot more depth and are scaled very broadly. Sometimes you put up the equivalent of a fake shop-front to see who turns up to attack it.

If you see an approach that you’ve never seen before then you might let that in and see what you can learn from it.

The most sophisticated adversaries are often very targeted when they go after specific companies or individuals.


Mr Barak said the techniques used by the bots were a good guide to what organisations should do to avoid falling victim. They should harden servers by patching, controls around admin access, check apps to make sure they are not harbouring well-known bugs and enforce strong passwords

Deeper dive

Criminals often have different targets in mind when seeking out vulnerable servers, he said. Some were keen to hijack user accounts and others sought to take over servers and use them for their own ends.

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Honeypots have become a useful tool for security firms keen to understand hack attack techniques

Cyber-thieves would look through the logs compiled by attack bots to see if they have turned up any useful or lucrative targets. There had been times when a server compromised by a bot was passed on to another criminal gang because it was at a bank, government or other high-value target.

“They sell access to parts of their botnet and offer other attackers access to machines their bots are active on,” he said. “We have seen cases where a very typical bot infection turns into a manual operation.”

In those cases, attackers would then use the foothold gained by the bots as a starting point for a more comprehensive attack. It’s at that point, he said, hackers would take over and start to use other digital attack tools to penetrate further into a compromised organisation.

He said: “Once an adversary has got to a certain level in an organisation you have to ask what will they do next?”

In a bid to explore what happens in those situations, Cyber Reason is now planning to set up more servers and give these more depth to make them even more tempting targets. The idea is, he said, to get a close look at the techniques hackers use when they embark on a serious attack.

“We’ll look for more sophisticated, manual operations,” he said. “We’ll want to see the techniques they use and if there is any monetisation of the method.”

TEDGlobal: Africa needs more engineers and makers

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Kamau Gachigi said there was a need for more engineers

Africa needs more engineers and makers, the head of Gearbox – Nairobi’s leading maker-space – has told the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania.

Kamau Gachigi said that by 2050 Africa’s population is projected to have doubled and needs to build economies to sustain that level of growth.

Digital fabrications labs such as Gearbox were vital to this, he said.

Such labs need to start building more Africa-specific hardware, he added.

“These labs help people become more practical and more productive. We need many more people to develop their potential and contribute to society.”

He spoke about how young engineer Simon Wachira had used the lab to create a robotic tool that could cut both metal and wood, which is now creating parts for car giant General Motors.

Another project saw 24-year-old Esther help design sanitary towel dispensers which can be put up in schools to avoid the issue of girls missing school when they have their period.

And a third saw a pharmacy student design 3D models of CT scans that surgeons can use to practise operations before they operate on real tumours.

“He is making money selling these models to surgeons. It saves up to 60% of operation time and that means insurance companies are interested. He now has a business and doesn’t need to go back to university,” said Mr Gachigi.

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The next iteration of Mobius’s low-cost jeep is due in 2018

Many speakers at the conference drew attention to the lack of manufacturing in Africa and the need to change that.

Joel Jackson is part of the small Nairobi manufacturing scene, making low-cost Jeeps with local staff and materials.

Mobius is a low-cost stripped-down car designed for Africa’s often rugged terrain. The firm sold 50 of them in 2015 and now, with a few tweaks based on customer feedback, is due to launch a second generation model next year.

At a cost of $11,000, it remains unaffordable for many Africans but the firm is already planning an even cheaper, modular vehicle which will be a basic chassis which people can effectively clip different designs on.

Education was also a key theme at TEDGlobal and MIT professor Clapperton Mavhunga wants to see African schools radically rethink education.

“We need to teach students to think critically and solve problems but at the moment students come to class, lecturers pour information into their ears and then they memorise that to pass exams,” he said.

The trend for university students to leave their villages and often their country to work for foreign firms also needs to be reversed.

Problem-solving is fertile in villages where people have to come up with solutions to their everyday challenges, he said.

“We should turn these villages into labs. These students need to go back to their villages and work for their communities. If ten of these join up there is the beginning of a village institute.”

Another issue raised at the conference was the lack of women in the technology sector in Africa.

In Nigeria, a new initiative – Nigerian Women Techsters – is aiming to change that. Launching in October, it intends to teach 7,200 women in 12 states in Nigeria to code.

TEDGlobal: Three words that give people an address

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What3Words

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The addresses of homes in Mongolia

Groceries, post and even pizza are now being delivered to remote parts of the world, previously cut off because they lacked an address.

In Mongolia, people can apply for a bank account using three words to identify where they live.

The system divides the world into 57 trillion 3m sq (9.8ft sq) squares, each with a unique three-word address.

What3words was at Arusha, Tanzania’s TEDGlobal conference, updating its effort to give “everyone an address”.

“Without an address you might as well not exist,” said the UK start-up’s co-founder Chris Sheldrick.

“So many services that people take for granted such as applying for a bank account or a utility require an address. For some it is either impossible or a huge struggle to get these things.”

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TED

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Chris Sheldrick started What3Words after getting lost constantly as a musician

A charity in Durban, South Africa, is using the system to provide three-word addresses for 11,000 pregnant women.

“They would previously call an ambulance and it would take hours to find them. Now they can just call and give the three-word address,” said Mr Sheldrick.

Domino’s Pizza is using the system to deliver pizzas in the Caribbean island of St Maarten.

What3words has just signed a deal with Khan bank in Mongolia that will allow residents to put the three words that make up their location on a form when applying for a bank account.

“The safe and secure delivery of credit cards to the hands of our customers is critical for us,” said Javkhlan Turmunkh, deputy chief executive of Khan Bank.

“Considering the fact that addresses supplied by our customers are often not recognised by mapping platforms, we have chosen to use three-word addresses besides conventional postal addresses in our card delivery. This means that no matter where our customers live, we will be able to deliver cards safely.”

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Domino’s partnered with What3Words to help deal with St Maarten’s complex addressing system

Earlier this month, What3Words also signed a deal with the Nigerian postal system.

Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest economies, with more than 180 million people – but only 20% of its inhabitants are able to receive their mail at home. The Nigerian Post and Telecommunications Service has set a target to increase this to more than 70% within the next two years.

The system has already been adopted by postal services in Mongolia, Ivory Coast, Tonga and the Solomon Islands.

Simple solution

Chris Sheldrick began the firm in 2013, following a 10-year career as a musician.

“Every day we would go somewhere new and people always got lost. I tried getting my band to use GPS co-ordinates but they were resistant or typed the co-ordinates wrong.

“I started chatting with a friend who was a mathematician about how we could come up with something that was simple.”

They came up with a mathematical formula and list of 40,000 words. Initially in English, the system has now been translated into 14 languages.

What3Words has, however, faced criticism, not least for the restrictions it places on how its data is used and the fact it charges companies to incorporate its service into other products.

And despite the progress outlined at TEDGlobal, the platform has a long way to go before it could be described as being mainstream.

Edward Anderson, chief technologist at the World Bank in Tanzania has looked into customising the system to make it easier to deliver textbooks to secondary schools and for identifying broken water pumps around the country.

“It is a neat idea but it is not immediately obvious what the problem is. In order to look up the three words you need to have GPS co-ordinates so it is not about figuring out where you are but more about telling other people where you are,” he said.

He said that there could be a market for the system for voice-activated services.

“You could speak your address to self-driving cars or to make drone deliveries.”

Snapchat: We call police to check facts

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Reuters

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Snapchat and Facebook take contrasting approaches to fact-checking their users’ posts

Snapchat has said its in-house team of journalists play a key role in helping it cover the news accurately.

As an example, the social network told the BBC it had fact-checked user-generated coverage from the recent Charlottesville protests with local police before highlighting the posts.

The approach contrasts with that of its rival Facebook.

Facebook used to employ an editorial team to curate its trending news section, but disbanded it last year.

The larger company now relies on algorithms and external services to help tackle so-called “fake news”.

Snapchat’s audience is a fraction of Facebook’s. The former recently reported having 173 million active daily users, while the latter said it had more than two billion monthly ones.

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Media captionIt is “much harder” for radicalists to emerge on Snapchat than on other platforms, says vice president of content

However, one research company has said Snapchat is set to prove more popular with young adults in the US this year.

Driver arrest

Although Snapchat is best known for its self-deleting messaging service and augmented reality selfie filters, its owner, Snap, is also keen to highlight the ways it is investing in becoming a source of news.

CNN has recently started streaming a daily show on the platform, and several other mainstream media outlets make content available via its Discover facility.

But Nick Bell, vice-president of content at Snap, was also keen to discuss how the app had curated videos of James Alex Fields Jr – the main suspect in the killing of a woman near a white supremacist rally in Virginia – filmed by its users.

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Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others were injured when a car hit anti-fascism protesters in Charlottesville

“We have a news team – we have journalists who work at Snapchat, who are looking at content that comes in and are evaluating it, are determining whether it is accurate, whether it is relevant and how we can add additional context,” Mr Bell told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

“So, if you look at some of the events in Chartlottesville, for example, in recent weeks, we actually received Snaps from members of our community of the driver being arrested.

“Before we published these Snaps, we actually verified with the police to make sure that… the snaps that we were posting to our 173 million daily active users were of what we thought they were.

“And we added a layer of context above that as well to describe what had happened.

“We also inserted into that story warnings of graphic content.

“So, we think that putting journalists into the fold is very important.”

Mr Bell did not refer to Facebook by name.

However, Mark Zuckerberg’s company has faced criticism that it helped promote dozens of false stories after stopping using human editors.

The company responded late last year by highlighting some of the processes it had put in place to tackle the issue, including studying whether people became less likely to share an article if they had read it.

Since then, it has announced several follow-up measures, the most recent of which is to block advertisers who repeatedly share stories that third-party fact-checkers have flagged as being false.

However, explaining these processes to the public is inherently more challenging than Snap’s ability to talk about its own in-house team of editors.

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Getty Images

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Mr Bell suggests that it is harder to radicalise users on Snapchat than some other social media platforms

Mr Bell was also asked whether Snapchat could be used to help inspire others to commit violence.

“We take both terrorism and hate speech very very seriously, and we have zero tolerance,” he said.

“By design, Snapchat has been built to allow you to communicate with your best friends.

“We actually make it pretty difficult for you to build a large following.

“The situation that we live in today is that you could be approached on the street by a radical preacher, and it’s very difficult to protect everyone from everything at any time.

“What I am saying it that it’s much harder for radicalists to emerge and create a large following on Snapchat than it maybe is on other platforms.”

Uber names Expedia boss Dara Khosrowshahi as CEO pick

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Media captionUber has picked ex-Expedia boss Dara Khosrowshahi as its new chief executive

Uber has chosen Expedia boss Dara Khosrowshahi to be its chief executive, ending months of speculation in the firm’s search for a new leader.

The decision was made by Uber’s board late on Sunday, a source told the BBC, but the company has made no official announcement.

In an internal memo to staff, Expedia said it expects Mr Khosrowshahi to take the role.

He will replace Travis Kalanick who resigned following investor pressure.

Expedia’s chairman, Barry Diller, said in the memo to staff: “Nothing has yet been finalized, but having extensively discussed this with Dara, I believe it is his intention to accept.”

Uber is battling to repair its image after a series of scandals.

Several big names – including Hewlett Packard boss Meg Whitman and General Electric chairman Jeff Immelt – had been touted for the role.

Mr Immelt ruled himself out of the race over the weekend, while reports intensified that Ms Whitman was the most likely successor despite her saying she was not interested in the job either.

Corporate image

Mr Kalanick bowed to pressure from shareholders in the San Francisco-based firm and stood down in June.

His resignation came after months of turmoil at the firm, including a series of controversies about sexual harassment, macho culture and the departure of senior executives.


Who is Dara Khosrowshahi?

  • Born in Tehran in 1969
  • Family moved to US after Iranian revolution of late-1970s
  • Been chief executive of Expedia since 2005
  • Also been on board of New York Times since 2015
  • Against President Trump’s travel ban affecting six mainly Muslim countries
  • Backed a Washington State lawsuit against the ban

Uber’s board has been meeting daily and was deliberating on its pick for a new leader over the weekend.

A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the appointment and there has been no comment from Mr Khosrowshahi.

He has been chief executive of online travel firm Expedia from 2005. Expedia’s share price fell by 4.3% to $142.84 in Monday trading.

If Mr Khosrowshahi takes the Uber job, he would have a steep task ahead of him. It includes repairing Uber’s corporate image, improving relations with investors and creating a profitable business after years of losses.

Jeff Immelt of General Electric quits race to be Uber boss

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Reuters

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Immelt said he had “immense respect for the company and founders”

General Electric chair Jeff Immelt has ruled himself out of the race to become the new boss of taxi service Uber.

In a tweet, Mr Immelt said he had “decided not to pursue a leadership position at Uber”.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise chief executive Meg Whitman is now reported to be “the most likely candidate”.

Uber has been searching for a new chief executive since June after previous boss Travis Kalanick resigned following pressure from shareholders.

His resignation came after a chaotic few months at the firm and followed a review of practices there amid a series of scandals including complaints of sexual harassment, a macho culture and the departure of senior executives.

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Getty Images

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Meg Whitman has been floated as a candidate

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ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty

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Former Uber boss Travis Kalanick resigned following pressure from shareholders

Ms Whitman has previously said she is not interested in the job, posting on Twitter that “I am not going anywhere. Uber’s CEO will not be Meg Whitman.”

However, the New York Times said she was “emerging as the likely candidate” to be selected as Uber’s new chief.

She is currently president and chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, having split its computer and printer business (HP Inc) from its corporate hardware and services operations in 2014.

Under her tenure she has dramatically shrunk the firm, arguing a smaller firm is better able to compete with new start-up rivals.

Uber’s eight-member board is expected to vote later on Sunday on the firm’s new leader.

‘Self-driving’ lorries to be tested on UK roads

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Media captionThe technology has already been trialled in the Netherlands using two lorries, with the lead truck having control

Small convoys of partially self-driving lorries will be tried out on major British roads by the end of next year, the government has announced.

A contract has been awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to carry out the tests of vehicle “platoons”.

Up to three lorries will travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle.

But the head of the AA said platoons raised safety concerns.

In the platoons, the lead vehicle will be controlled by a human driver and will communicate with the rest of the convoy wirelessly.

The following vehicles will be instructed to accelerate and brake by the lead vehicle, allowing the lorries to drive closer together than they could with human drivers.

Lorries driving close together could reduce air resistance for the following vehicles, as the front lorry pushes air out of the way.

This could lead to fuel efficiency savings for haulage companies, which Transport Minister Paul Maynard hopes will be passed on to consumers.

The following vehicles could also react more quickly to the lead lorry braking than human drivers can.

However, human drivers will still steer all the lorries in the convoy.

The TRL will begin trials of the technology on test tracks, but these trials are expected to move to major roads by the end of 2018.

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Media captionDriverless lorries could lead to savings being passed to consumers, the Transport Minister Paul Maynard says

The government has been promising such a project since at least 2014.

Last year, for example, it announced its intention to carry out platooning trials but was later frustrated after some European lorrymakers declined to participate.

A Department for Transport spokesman told the BBC that the experiments are now expected to go ahead as the contract had been awarded.


Q&A

Will the platoon block motorists trying to leave or enter the motorway?

The TRL says it will carefully choose sections of motorway for its trials, taking the number of junctions and traffic into account. All the lorries will have drivers behind the wheel who will be able to take control and break up the convoy to let other drivers join or leave the motorway if there is an obstruction.

What happens if a car tries to squeeze between the lorries?

The platoon lorries will be able to drive more closely together than those driven exclusively by humans, so the gap between them might be uncomfortably close for a driver to try to squeeze into. However, the TRL says its current strategy is to break up the convoy and let the human drivers take control, if a car squeezes in between the lorries. The organisation is considering ways of informing other road users that the lorries are in a “self-driving” convoy.

How much fuel will a convoy actually save?

According to TRL, other trials have seen improvements in fuel economy of between 4% and 10%. A local trial will help determine the benefit platooning can deliver in the UK.


The TRL has announced its partners for the project:

  • DAF Trucks, a Dutch lorry manufacturer
  • Ricardo, a British smart tech transport firm
  • DHL, a German logistics company

Platooning has been tested in a number of countries around the world, including the US, Germany and Japan.

However, British roads present a unique challenge, said Edmund King, president of the AA.

“We all want to promote fuel efficiency and reduce congestion but we are not yet convinced that lorry platooning on UK motorways is the way to go about it,” he said, pointing out, for example, that small convoys of lorries can block road signs from the view of other road users.

“We have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries.

“Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America,” he added.

His comments were echoed by the RAC Foundation.

Its director, Steve Gooding, said: “Streams of close-running HGVs could provide financial savings on long-distance journeys, but on our heavily congested motorways – with stop-start traffic and vehicles jostling for position – the benefits are less certain.”

Campaign group the Road Haulage Association said “safety has to come first”.

Transport Minister Paul Maynard said platooning could lead to cheaper fuel bills, lower emissions and less congestion.

“But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that’s why we are investing in these trials,” he said.

YouTube football team Hashtag United ‘living the dream’

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Hashtag United

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The team show off their new kit and distinctive “hashtag” hand sign

“We’re average footballers living the professional footballer dream,” says Seb Carmichael-Brown, vice-captain of amateur side Hashtag United.

The squad is a group of mates, most of whom have day jobs off the pitch which have nothing to do with sport.

And yet they have toured the US, Serbia, Ireland and Jersey, had their own kit custom-made by sportswear giant Umbro and average 700,000 views per match.

They’ve also played at the UK’s top stadiums including Wembley and the Etihad, as well as the O2 Arena and Everton’s training ground.

And it’s all thanks to a carefully crafted presence on YouTube.

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Spencer Owen/Instagram

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Team captain Spencer Owen is a successful YouTuber

Crucially, the team didn’t start life as total unknowns. Captain Spencer Owen was already a successful football and gaming YouTuber in his own right, and now has nearly two million followers.

“He has always wanted to own his own football club,” says Seb Carmichael-Brown, who is also Spencer’s brother.

“But it’s not viable for a 28-year-old YouTuber. So we thought, let’s start his own.”

Sunday league activity already has an established YouTube presence – like the Palmers FC team, who have 200,000 followers – so the brothers decided to build something a bit different.

Inspired by EA video game franchise Fifa, they devised a tournament in which the team would play real matches within a fictional league, working their way from fifth to first division, where they are currently. They are promoted or relegated depending on a points system dictated by match wins – their current target is to reach 22 points in order to top their own first division.

This way, Hashtag United can choose their opponents, and include teams from other big YouTube channels like Copa90 and the F2Freestylers as well as sponsored teams.

It also secures occasional access to the big stadiums – sometimes through sponsored deals with, say, BT Sport, and sometimes because they play a team connected to a particularly hallowed arena. So, for example, a match against Arsenal community team Arsenal For All got them on to the pitch of the Emirates Stadium.

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Media captionYogscast chief tells newbie YouTubers: ‘Do it for love’

They also work full-time on creating YouTube material.

The team post a match video every two weeks but the channel is peppered with behind-the-scenes videos, fronted by Spencer, showing them travelling, setting up, chatting about forthcoming events among themselves.

A six-person camera crew attends matches, and it takes four to five weeks for a tightly edited match video to find its way on to the official channels.

It costs “thousands” to put on a match in this way, says Mr Carmichael-Brown. Although sponsorship is lucrative – the team’s US tour was paid for by Coca-Cola – overheads are also large.

“Hashtag United have hit a rich vein – younger, digitally native fans alienated from the professional game who just love football,” said social media strategist Sue Llewellyn.

“This is a classic example of keeping it real and personal – talk to your fans like you would talk to your mates. It’s all about trust these days. Younger people don’t like big faceless corporates, they want a more personal, more authentic experience.”

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Hashtag United

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The Hashtag brand also includes four professional e-sports players.

In addition to successful memorabilia and merchandise marketing (the current strip is sold out, says Mr Carmichael-Brown), Hashtag ran an X Factor-style search for a new player, which attracted 20,000 applicants, they claim, and has resulted in a couple of signings.

Then there’s the successful Hashtag e-sports team playing professional Fifa. Team manager Tassal Rushan was crowned regional champion in Paris during EA’s FUT Championship earlier this year – a professional Fifa competition played by e-sports teams from around the world.

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Hashtag United

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Even the camera crew feature in the videos.

The north London ground which the Hashtag football team call their regular home only has the capacity for 1,000 spectators, and the team try hard to keep match dates under wraps.

“We are primarily making videos for YouTube rather than creating live events,” says Mr Carmichael-Brown.

“A lot of our games go out four to five weeks later. If we have a big crowd, they’ll all have their phones, and the results will leak.”

However, people do try to figure out the venue, he admits, and will turn up on the off-chance that they might catch Hashtag United in action.

“We have recently thought about ways we might move towards a model where all the games are open,” he said.

Perhaps that will form part of the next chapter in the life of Hashtag United – planning is well under way as the team races to the top of its self-created Division One.

Mr Carmichael-Brown is tight-lipped but says the announcement will be made “in the coming months”.


Key players

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Hashtag United

Jemel Akeem – defender and YouTuber, age 25

Strong, fast, tall, athletic player.

Joined: three months ago, via the Academy series

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Hashtag United

Jack Harrison – midfielder and insurance underwriter, age 32

Workman, warrior, very good with both feet

Joined: at the start

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Hashtag United

Ryan Adams – striker and carpenter, age 26

Very fast – and the team’s second top goalscorer

Joined: at the start.


“It’ll be hugely important for them to stay real – in other words stay true to their roots and not end up in the elite player position of being spoilt by money,” said Sue Llewellyn.

“They will also need to be agile in such a fast-moving space, keep innovating and finding new ways to engage their fans.”

That said, social media and sport are a natural partnership, she adds.

“Sports fans are passionate about their game. It’s a basic human need to belong and to want to feel we matter.

“Being part of a digital tribe fulfils that need and it brings people together wherever they are in the world and whatever physical skill level they have.”

Is ‘killer robot’ warfare closer than we think?

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“Killer robots” may seem like something from a sci-fi film, but reality is catching up

More than 100 of the world’s top robotics experts wrote a letter to the United Nations recently calling for a ban on the development of “killer robots” and warning of a new arms race. But are their fears really justified?

Entire regiments of unmanned tanks; drones that can spot an insurgent in a crowd of civilians; and weapons controlled by computerised “brains” that learn like we do, are all among the “smart” tech being unleashed by an arms industry many believe is now entering a “third revolution in warfare”.

“In every sphere of the battlefield – in the air, on the sea, under the sea or on the land – the military around the world are now demonstrating prototype autonomous weapons,” says Toby Walsh, professor of artificial intelligence at Sydney’s New South Wales University.

“New technologies like deep learning are helping drive this revolution. The tech space is clearly leading the charge, and the military is playing catch-up.”

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Kalashnikov Group

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Russian arms maker Kalashnikov is developing a suite of fully automated weapons

One reported breakthrough giving killer machine opponents sleepless nights is Kalashnikov’s “neural net” combat module.

It features a 7.62mm machine gun and a camera attached to a computer system that its makers claim can make its own targeting judgements without any human control.

The company did not respond to repeated requests by the BBC for an interview, but according to Russia’s state-run Tass news agency it uses “neural network technologies that enable it to identify targets and make decisions”.

Unlike a conventional computer that uses pre-programmed instructions to tackle a specific but limited range of predictable possibilities, a neural network is designed to learn from previous examples then adapt to circumstances it may not have encountered before.

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Kalashnikov Group

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Would robot combat systems make fewer mistakes than humans?

And it is this supposed ability to make its own decisions that is worrying to many.

“If weapons are using neural networks and advanced artificial intelligence then we wouldn’t necessarily know the basis on which they made the decision to attack – and that’s very dangerous,” says Andrew Nanson, chief technology officer at defence specialist Ultra Electronics.

But he remains sceptical about some of the claims arms manufacturers are making.

Automated defence systems can already make decisions based on an analysis of a threat – the shape, size, speed and trajectory of an incoming missile, for example – and choose an appropriate response much faster than humans can.

But what happens when such systems encounter something they have no experience of, but are still given the freedom to act using a “best guess” approach?

Mistakes could be disastrous – the killing of innocent civilians; the destruction of non-military targets; “friendly fire” attacks on your own side.

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Getty Images

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Remotely piloted drones have been used to carry out missile attacks since 2001

And this is what many experts fear, not that AI will become too smart – taking over the world like the Skynet supercomputer from the Terminator films – but that it’s too stupid.

“The current problems are not with super-intelligent robots but with pretty dumb ones that cannot flexibly discriminate between civilian targets and military targets except in very narrowly contained settings,” says Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Sheffield University.

Despite such concerns, Kalashnikov’s latest products are not the only autonomous and semi-autonomous weapons being trialled in Russia.

The Uran-9 is an unmanned ground combat vehicle and features a machine gun and 30mm cannon. It can be remotely controlled at distances of up to 10km.

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And the diminutive Platform-M combat robot boasts automated targeting and can operate in extremes of heat and cold.

Meanwhile the Armata T-14 “super tank” has an autonomous turret that designer Andrei Terlikov claims will pave the way for fully autonomous tanks on the battlefield.

Manufacturer Uralvagonzavod also didn’t respond to BBC requests for an interview, but Prof Sharkey – who is a member of pressure group The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots – is wary of its potential.

“The T-14 is years ahead of the West, and the idea of thousands of autonomous T-14s sitting on the border with Europe does not bear thinking about,” he says.

And it’s not just Russia developing such weapons.

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Toby Walsh

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Prof Toby Walsh says all militaries are developing autonomous weapons

Last summer, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) equipped an ordinary surveillance drone with advanced AI designed to discern between civilians and insurgents during a test over a replica Middle Eastern village in Massachusetts.

And Samsung’s SGR-A1 sentry gun, capable of firing autonomously, has been deployed along the South Korean side of the Korean Demilitarised Zone.

The UK’s Taranis drone – which is roughly the size of a Red Arrow Hawk fighter jet – is being developed by BAE Systems. It is designed to carry a myriad of weapons long distances and will have “elements” of full autonomy, BAE says.

At sea, the USA’s Sea Hunter autonomous warship is designed to operate for extended periods at sea without a single crew member, and to even guide itself in and out of port.

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Darpa

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The Sea Hunter can operate without a single crew member

All the Western arms manufacturers contacted by the BBC, including Boeing’s Phantom Works, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, refused to co-operate with this feature, an indication perhaps of the controversial nature of this technology.

But could autonomous military technology also be used simply as support for human military operations?

Roland Sonnenberg, head of defence at consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, says combat simulation, logistics, threat analysis and back office functions are the more mundane – but equally important – aspects of warfare that robots and AI could perform.

“The benefits that AI has to offer are only useful if they can be applied effectively in the real world and will only be broadly adopted if companies, consumers and society trust the technology and take a responsible approach,” he says.

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BAE Systems

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BAE Systems says its Taranis unmanned military drone will include “full autonomy elements”

And some argue that autonomous weapons could actually reduce the number of human casualties.

But Elizabeth Quintana, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, disagrees.

“Deploying robotic systems might be more attractive to politicians because there would be fewer body bags coming home.

“My view is that war is an inherently human activity and that if you wage war from a distance at another group or country, they will find a way to hurt you at home because that is the only way that they can retaliate.”

The prospect of autonomous weapons systems inadvertently leading to an escalation in domestic terrorism or cyber-warfare is perhaps another reason to treat this new tech with caution.

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French firm offered spyware to ‘find out if your son is gay’

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Many companies now offer products that track children’s internet use

A French company offering “invisible PC spy software” has been criticised after it said its product could be used “to find out if your son is gay”.

Listing a series of “clues”, the company, Fireworld, suggested that “hacking his Facebook account” and seeing if he had visited gay websites could confirm a parent’s suspicions.

The company has since taken down the article.

The post was highlighted by a French youth LGBT rights group.

L’Amicale des jeunes du Refuge’s thread about Fireworld’s article (in French) was retweeted by French Secretary of State for Equality Marlène Schiappa, who wrote that it showed that “homophobia and sexism have their roots in the same gender stereotypes. We will fight them together”.

In its online article, since removed, the firm said that “family is fundamental. That’s why the sexual orientation of your children, directly responsible for the continuation of your family, is very important to you”.

The article went on to list the clues that might cause a parent to suspect that their son might be gay. The article makes no mention of female homosexuality.

They include “taking good care of himself”, being more interested in reading and theatre than in football, being shy as a young boy, having certain piercings and liking female singers and divas.

It then suggested a variety of ways to be sure, including “monitoring his Facebook use”, seeing “if he has visited gay forums” and “spying on his private messages”.

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Fireworld

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The original post has been removed from Fireworld’s website

In a response to L’Amicale des jeunes du Refuge, Fireworld wrote that “the article had the sole aim of improving search engine optimisation and was never intended to be read by humans”.

“We regret not having reflected on the consequences of this type of content…” the firm emailed. “We sincerely apologise to all those who may have felt offended by this content,” it added.

However, the English language version of Fireworld’s site suggests a range of scenarios in which a potential customer might want to monitor someone else’s computer, including “control your teenage offspring’s PC”, checking “what your employees are doing” and “detecting infidelity in your marriage or relationship”.

It is not legal in France to install spyware on someone else’s computer in order to monitor it, without their knowledge.

Fireworld points out to customers that they must comply with the law when using their products. However, it says, “installing [its product] to make sure that your children are not endangering themselves on the Internet or on social networks, come[s] closer to being legal”.

French newspaper Liberation reports that spyware vendors are usually more subtle in their claims for their products, as French law does not allow advertising which incentivises the illegal use of such tools.

There are a range of products on the market that offer parental monitoring and report back to parents on what their children have been doing online.

Support for gay young people and their families:

Crypto-cash investors duped in funding scam

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The popularity of Bitcoin kicked off a rush to mint novel e-currencies

Cyber-thieves are believed to have stolen about $500,000 (£390,000) in the Ethereum crypto-currency, with an investment scam.

The thieves hijacked the website of finance security start-up Enigma and posted messages saying it was about to launch its own currency.

Many people keen to cash in transferred ethereum to the thieves’ account.

In response, Enigma shut down its website and adopted stronger security policies to keep hackers out.

In a statement posted to its Twitter account, Enigma said the thieves had carried out the scam after taking over the company’s web domain, mailing lists and Slack messaging service account.

By posting a message on the Enigma website and sending notices out via Slack and email, the malicious hackers convinced many people the security company was seeking early investors.

The attackers played on the fact that early next month Enigma plans to run a crypto-cash-based fundraising exercise to bankroll its expansion.

The criminal hackers asked for investments to be paid in ethereum and are believed to have amassed about $500,000 worth before the scam was spotted and shut down.

Enigma said none of its infrastructure had been used for the scam and none of its funds had been stolen by the attackers.

It said it had now regained control of its compromised accounts.

It has also adopted stronger security measures internally to prevent hijacks.

Enigma has also stopped using Slack and moved to the secure messaging program Telegram.

“We’ve moved up a number of critical security steps and taken additional measures to protect the community going forward,” Tor Bair, a spokesman for Enigma, told Wired.

“We’re now very well aware of the potential threats and are taking no chances.”

Enigma added it was helping to investigate the scam and who was behind it with the help of other crypto-cash and security companies.

How your digital self could ‘live’ on after you die

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What if you could “talk” digitally to your descendants, not just appear in photo albums?

The death and funerals industry is due for a shake-up, a growing number of tech start-ups believe.

After you die, how do you fancy springing back to life in the form of a digital avatar?

Your digital ghost could jump onto Facebook and join in a light-hearted argument about Friends, or post Instagram updates reminiscing about that Italian road trip you took with an ex-lover.

Living a digital afterlife might sound strange – a possible episode of satirical TV show Black Mirror perhaps – but some start-ups are investing serious time and money in the concept.

Eternime, for example, plans to combine your online footprint – made up of everything you’ve ever posted on social media, your thoughts, smartphone pictures and so on – with artificial intelligence to create a digital version of yourself.

This digital representative could interact with your loved ones – and your descendants – long after you’ve died.

“Depending on the facts it has collected, the avatar will be able to offer anything from basic biographical data to being an engaging conversational partner,” says Marius Ursache, Eternime’s founder.

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Marius Ursache

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An avatar of a loved one could be “an engaging conversational partner”, says Marius Ursache

It is set to launch next year, and according to Eternime, more than 37,000 people have already signed up for the service.

But if you feel such a digital imprint might be a step too far – not to mention creepy – you could always schedule a few social media messages via DeadSocial.org to be published online after you’ve died.

It might be best to pre-warn your nearest and dearest of your intentions, though.

More pragmatically, technology is also helping people organise their funerals before they die.

Rebekah Doran is only 28, but the Los Angeles-based travel consultant has already planned her funeral through a firm called Cake.

On the day, guests will be served chicken and waffles and glasses of French wine, while listening to classic folk music.

“Having an end-of-life plan is even more important for young people, because should the unthinkable happen, we are the least likely group to be prepared,” she says.

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Rebekah Doran

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Chicken and waffles will be on the menu at Rebekah Doran’s funeral

Boston-based Cake lets consumers plan their end-of-life preferences, from the funeral to what happens to their Facebook page. All the information is stored, appropriately enough, in the cloud or shared with family or friends.

“As generations of digital natives age, it is inevitable that people will seek a digital solution for end-of-life planning,” says Cake co-founder Suelin Chen.

“Your end-of-life plans are exactly the type of information that should live securely in the cloud, where they can be accessed and updated from anywhere, and not just on pieces of paper stuck in a drawer somewhere,” she says.

The business of death in general has not been known for its technological innovation.

Yes, we’ve had ashes being blasted into space, and biodegradable coffins and urns – some containing seeds – but a growing number of start-ups around the world believe this is an industry needing to be shaken up.

In the UK, two companies – Co-operative Funeralcare and Dignity – dominate the £1.7bn funerals market, with shares of 25.2% and 18.4% respectively.

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Getty Images

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While tech can’t assuage grief, it can help organise the funeral

That’s bad for competition, thought Funeralbooker, so it developed a marketplace that lets people compare the prices of funerals across the UK.

“Until we launched, there was zero transparency of pricing online,” says Funeralbooker chief executive Ian Strang.

“Your only way to compare prices was to go round town and bargain with different funeral directors, all of whom have different pricing schemes.”

Not only does Funeralbooker enable customers to shop around from the comfort of their own homes, he says, but it provides independent funeral directors with “a collective presence online to counter the spending power of the large chains”.

Since the company launched last November, “several thousand” people have used its service, says Mr Strang.

In the US, Parting allows users to search for funeral directors by zip code (the US equivalent of postcode), while Stockholm-based online funeral planner Fenix organises funerals across Sweden online or by phone.

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Jamie Fergusson

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An online will writing service can be a “pragmatic organisational tool”, says Alice Walsh

Making a will is also one of those unwelcome tasks too many of us put off.

But Alice Walsh, 37, used Farewill, a website offering will-making and funeral-planning services for just £50.

“My husband and I had been meaning to do a will for about five years, but we never got round to it,” says Ms Walsh, who runs her own accessories and jewellery brand.

“A will, to me, was always a slow, serious document that needed to be done with a lawyer. Instead, we found a pragmatic organisational tool that we can manage and update as our life develops.

“If I’m happy to bank online, shop online and run my business online, then having my will online is a given,” she says.

Of course, such simple online services may not be suitable for people with complex estates and children from multiple marriages, but as Mr Walsh says, it helped her cross off an unpleasant task from her list quickly and easily.

More Technology of Business

Dan Garrett, Farewill’s founder and chief executive, says one of his clients “insisted his wife wore his green crocs to his funeral because of how intensely she hated them.

“That’s real love to me, the kind of wish that makes you cry and laugh at the same time when you get it in real life,” he says.

From live-streaming of funerals to after-life digital avatars, it’s clear that technology is infiltrating this most staid of sectors.

“Technology is coming in and making the industry more transparent in many ways, from finding a funeral director, to end-of-life thinking,” says Louise Winter, funeral director at Poetic Endings and the former editor of the Good Funeral Guide.

But she believes further innovation is needed. And Mr Strang agrees, saying: “Other sectors such as healthcare and artificial intelligence are more interesting to investors right now.

“Death is less sexy and far more difficult to disrupt due to the slow pace of change.”

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

Silk Road: Google search unmasked Dread Pirate Roberts

You could buy any drug imaginable, wherever you were in the world, on the Silk Road website.

Hidden on the dark web, it made millions of dollars every week. The US government had been trying to shut it down for more than two years when tax agent Gary Alford was brought in to try to trace the money which passed through the site.

In his spare time, Gary started searching Google to try to find the mysterious mastermind behind the site: Dread Pirate Roberts.

Australia blocks another 59 popular pirate sites

A keyboard with a pirate flag emblazoned on a keyImage copyright
Getty Images

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340 domains relating to pirate sites will soon be blocked in Australia

Australia’s federal court has ordered internet service providers (ISPs) to block dozens of popular pirate sites.

The crackdown prevents users from accessing 59 illegal torrent and streaming sites including Demonoid, EZTV, YTS, RARBG, 1337x and Putlocker.

A total of 160 domains have been blocked in two orders, including alternative routes to the Pirate Bay.

The blockades were requested by film studio Village Roadshow and Australian broadcaster Foxtel.

Many pirate websites are already banned in Australia, with the two new court cases bringing the total number of domains blocked in the country to 340.

The country has wrestled with curbing citizens’ illegal downloading habits for some time.

In 2014, Attorney General George Brandis told reporters that Australia was the “worst nation for piracy on the planet“.

Individuals caught offering pirated material can face fines of up to A$117,000 (£72,000) – up to five times more for corporations – and may also receive a prison sentence, according to the Australian government website.

In 2016, the Hollywood studio behind the US film Dallas Buyers Club announced that it would not pursue a piracy case it launched against Australians accused of illegally downloading the film.

The studio said at the time that it had identified 4,726 unique IP addresses from which the film had been shared online using BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file-sharing network.

Roaming downtime hits customers on Three in Europe

Three logoImage copyright
Three

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Some holidaymakers have been hit by the downtime

Roaming services have now been fixed for all customers on the Three mobile network in France, Portugal and Luxembourg, the operator has said.

Three apologised for the issue, which had lasted since yesterday.

On Twitter, several customers complained about problems they had experienced.

“The issue with our roaming partners which was affecting roaming service in France, Portugal and Luxembourg has now been fixed,” said Three in a statement.

“We apologise for any inconvenience.”

One customer wrote online: “I’m travelling alone and can’t make any calls or send any texts.”

Another said: “I’m driving to Paris tomorrow, and I’ve got to follow road signs because I have no connection for my Google Maps.”

BBC journalist Dougal Shaw – on holiday in France – also said on Twitter that he had been affected.

“I got lost in a market,” he wrote.

Nokia 8 smartphone takes ‘bothie’ videos

The latest Nokia smartphone aims to popularise the idea of filming “bothies”.

The device can capture video from both its front and rear-facing cameras at the same time, and broadcast the images side-by-side to YouTube and other livestreaming services.

The aluminium-shelled Nokia 8 costs about 600 euros ($703; £547).

The BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones asked whether it is distinctive enough to stand out from other high-end rivals.

Trump hits back at business leaders

Brian Krzanich, CEO of IntelImage copyright
Getty Images

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Intel chief Brian Krzanich said there should be “no hesitation in condemning hate speech”

US President Donald Trump hit back at business leaders on Tuesday as executives tried to distance themselves from the administration.

Mr Trump is under fire for being late to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis involved in a violent rally.

But Mr Trump said: “They’re leaving out of embarrassment, because they make their products outside.”

Shortly after Mr Trump’s comments, a fifth group stepped down from a White House business panel.

Those who have quit the manufacturing council include Kenneth Frazier of Merck, Kevin Plank of Under Armour, Brian Krzanich of Intel and Scott Paul, the president of business group the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

On Tuesday evening, after a combative news conference in which Mr Trump defended his original statement that violence came from “many sides”, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labour group, also said he and Thea Lee, another leader of the organisation, would no longer participate.

“It’s clear that President Trump’s manufacturing council was never an effective means for delivering real policy that lifts working families and his remarks today were the last straw,” he said.

As calls mount for corporations to respond, other firms participating on White House panels have issued statements condemning the violence.

Walmart, which typically avoids political controversy, shared a statement from its chief executive that said Mr Trump “missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists”.

However, Walmart boss Doug McMillon did not say he would step down from the panel.

Shannon Coulter, who co-founded the #grabyourwallet boycott against companies that do business with Mr Trump, said recent events have added momentum to the campaign.

“Charlottesville has definitely escalated the issue of associating oneself with the Trumps,” she told the BBC. “I think it’s increasingly clear to CEOs on his councils that the Trump name and identity is toxic and that for the sake of their brands they need to get away from it as quickly as possible.”

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‘Personal conscience’

Kenneth Frazier, the head of drugs giant Merck, led the walkout from the White House manufacturing council on Monday morning.

One of only a handful of black leaders of Fortune 500 companies, Mr Frazier said he would no longer participate, calling it a matter of “personal conscience”.

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AFP

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Donald Trump and Ken Frazier during a previous White House meeting

Mr Frazier said: “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

“America’s leaders must honour our fundamental views by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

In response, Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Frazier would now have “more time to lower rip-off drug prices”.

Mr Frazier’s decision sparked calls from the public for other leaders involved in Mr Trump’s panels to follow suit.

Kevin Plank, the chief executive of sports apparel company Under Armour, said he was resigning on Monday night. His decision came after he faced backlash from shoppers – and some Under Armour-sponsored athletes – earlier this year when he praised Mr Trump’s pro-business views.

Intel boss Brian Krzanich also said on Monday that he would resign, followed by Scott Paul of the manufacturing alliance on Tuesday.

Mr Trump dismissed the resignations, saying those companies relied on overseas manufacturing.

“They’re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country,” he said. “We want jobs, manufacturing in this country.”

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Getty Images

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Under Armour boss Kevin Plank (seated right) came under pressure to resign from the council.

Earlier business response

Many executives, including those at companies such as Campbell Soup Co and General Electric, said they feel it is important to remain involved.

“We must engage if we hope to change the world and those who lead it,” Alex Gorsky, chairman and chief executive of Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.

But the resignations this week add to Mr Trump’s growing alienation from the business community, which he had expected to claim as an ally.

Former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick left a business advisory council in February over the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk and Walt Disney’s chief executive Robert Iger left the President’s Strategic Trump retrenches on Charlottesville and Policy Forum in June, after Mr Trump said he would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Mr Musk also left the manufacturing council.

Rashad Robinson is executive director of Color of Change, which is among the groups that have brought pressure on corporations.

He said he hoped it would help make it clear that Mr Trump’s attitude toward white supremacists and neo-Nazis was unacceptable.

“The more desertions and defections, the more isolated this administration is, the less mainstream connections that this administration has, the more powerful this message is to every day Americans about how out of step what’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is and why we need a change, ” he said.

‘Having to choose’

Companies that cut ties with the White House are likely to face costs, said Jiekun Huang, a professor of finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

He is co-author of a study that linked higher stock prices to White House visits, based on records from the Obama administration. An initial review of the first six months of the Trump administration showed a similar effect, he said.

But the risk of losing access to discuss regulations or contracts must be weighed against the risk of alienating employees and consumers, said Michael Maslansky, head of Maslansky + Partners, a language strategy firm that has advised major companies.

“The era of the fence-sitter corporation is over,” he said.

“If you’re silent about an issue, then each side will assume you’re on the wrong side. You end up really having to choose.”

NHS cyber-defender Marcus Hutchins back online

Marcus Hutchins

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Marcus Hutchins was arrested by the FBI on 2 August

The British cyber-security researcher, charged in the US with creating and selling malware, has returned to Twitter to thank his supporters.

It is the first time Marcus Hutchins has spoken publicly since his arrest earlier this month in Las Vegas.

Earlier on Monday the 23-year-old pleaded “not guilty” during a court hearing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A trial has been scheduled for October. The court gave Mr Hutchins permission to work and use the internet again.

However, he will not be allowed access to the server he used to stop WannaCry spreading.

He must surrender his passport and will be tracked in the US via GPS during his release.

Posting on Twitter as @MalwareTechBlog, Mr Hutchins said: “There’s a lot of people I’d like to thank for amazing support over the past 11 days, which I will do when I get a chance to publish my blog.”

He added: “I’m still on trial, still not allowed to go home, still on house arrest; but now i am allowed online. Will get my computers back soon.”

He also listed a list of “things to do” at Def Con, the hacking conference he attended in Las Vegas prior to his arrest.

The list read: “Attend parties; visit red rock canyon; go shooting; be indicted by the FBI; rent supercars.”

Mr Hutchins shot to fame after helping to stall the WannaCry ransomware cyber-attack that struck the NHS and affected many other organisations around the world in May.

‘Brilliant young man’

Mr Hutchins faces six charges relating to the development and distribution of Kronos, a well-known piece of malware that gathered financial information from infected computers. He was arrested by the FBI on 2 August.

A second defendant, who has not yet been named, was included in the federal indictment against Mr Hutchins.

“Marcus Hutchins is a brilliant young man and a hero,” said Marcia Hoffman, one of his lawyers, who was speaking outside the court after the hearing.

“He is going to vigorously defend himself against these charges and when the evidence comes to light we are confident that he will be fully vindicated.”

Brian Klein, a second lawyer, added: “We are very pleased today that the court modified his terms, allowing him to return to his important work.”

Mr Hutchins was arrested shortly after visiting the Black Hat and Def Con cyber-security conferences in Las Vegas.

The cyber-security researcher is from Ilfracombe, Devon and works for LA-based firm Kryptos Logic.

He was granted bail on 5 August after $30,000 (£23,000) was raised by friends and family.

Blizzard starts drive to recruit more women and ethnic minorities

The company behind games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch has started a drive to recruit more women and ethnic minorities.

The information is in a leaked internal email from Blizzard’s CEO, seen by the website Kotako.

It claims 21% of Blizzard’s employees are women, and although that’s similar to the rest of the gaming industry, it says it wants to do better.

Newsbeat has contacted the firm, but they’re yet to respond.

Overwatch characters

Image caption Overwatch is becoming one of the most popular eSports in the world

The company claims the initiative will focus on finding more female employees and getting them to stay on longer.

At the moment women are leaving at a higher rate than men but it says it’ll fall short of setting “quotas”.

Instead it plans to partner with organisations like Girls Who Code, set up networking sessions and launch an annual “Women @Blizzard” summit.

It’s also set up a council of female workers which will help the company’s leaders “make Blizzard a more rewarding and enjoyable place for women to work”.

Later on the project plans to expand to other “under-represented minority groups”, which it claims make up 14% of the business.

A gaming convention

The gaming industry has faced accusations of sexism and racism for some time.

Last year Blizzard said it was working on technology to block offensive comments on sites like Twitch.

It was after a black Hearthstone player, Terrence Miller, was the subject of racist abuse during a tournament in Austin, Texas.

The developer was also forced to remove an “over-the-shoulder” victory pose from its game Overwatch, after criticism that it accentuated anything but the shoulder.

Overwatch

Last September, two of the biggest streaming sites – Twitch and YouTube – told Newsbeat they were doing what they could to stamp out misogyny.

Find us on Instagram at BBCNewsbeat and follow us on Snapchat, search for bbc_newsbeat

Snapchat registered with Russian regulator ‘unknowingly’

The logo of messaging app Snapchat is seen at a booth at TechFair LA, a technology job fair, in Los Angeles, California,Image copyright
Reuters

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Snapchat has been registered with a Russian regulator

Snapchat’s parent company says the US messaging app has been registered with Russia’s technology regulator without its knowledge.

Snap told the BBC that the Roskomnadzor agency had unilaterally put it on its register of information distributors.

The move means Snapchat will be required to keep all messages for six months and make them accessible to the Russian security services.

Snap said it had no intention of complying with the rule.

A spokesman for the company said it had provided “very basic contact information” to Roskomnadzor, but “not for the purpose of registering us”.

Snap is the first Western social media company to find itself on the list. Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger have not been added.

Russia’s new data laws require “information distribution organisers” to register with the regulator and store users’ data for six months. The requirements come into force next year.

Companies must also hand over their encryption keys when asked, in line with Russian anti-terror legislation.

Russian sites VKontakte and RuTube have all signed up, according to technology website Gizmodo, while Telegram added its name to the list after pressure from local authorities.

Non-compliance comes with a risk. Chinese messaging service WeChat was blocked earlier this year, Russian website VC.Ru reported [in Russian].

Snap does not have a specific figure for Russian users, but says there are 57 million daily users in Europe as a whole.

US firm reveals gun-toting drone that can fire in mid-air

A drone armed with a machine gun next to a soldier holding a childImage copyright
Duke Robotics

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A US firm has armed a drone with a machine-gun and a grenade launcher in order to fight terrorism

A US technology firm has developed a drone that is able to aim and fire at enemies while flying in mid-air.

The Tikad drone, developed by Duke Robotics, is armed with a machine-gun and a grenade launcher.

The gun can be fired only by remote control, and is designed to reduce military casualties by cutting the number of ground troops required.

But campaigners warn that in the wrong hands, it will make it easier to kill innocent people.

The Tikad drone, available for private sale at an undisclosed price, has won a security innovation award from the US Department of Defense, and there is interest from several military forces around the world, including Israel, reports Defense One.

According to the firm’s website, two of the three co-founders of Duke Robotics worked for the Israel Defense Forces and the third at Israel Aerospace Industries.

‘Violent force’

“As a former Special Mission Unit commander, I have been in the battlefield for many years,” said CEO Raziel Atuar.

“Over the last few years, we have seen how the needs of our troops in our battlefield have changed.”

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Duke Robotics

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The weapon can be fired only remotely by human control.

However, robotics expert Professor Noel Sharkey expressed concern that gun-toting drones could make it easier to kill innocent people.

“Big military drones traditionally have to fly thousands of feet overhead to get to targets, but these smaller drones could easily fly down the street to apply violent force,” he told the BBC.

“This is my biggest worry since there have been many legal cases of human-rights violations using the large fixed-wing drones, and these could potentially result in many more.”

For the past decade, Prof Sharkey has been campaigning against killer robots, which are fully autonomous, computer-powered weapons that would be able to track and select targets without human supervision.

Together with the Campaign To Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of over 60 international NGOs including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Sharkey has been lobbying the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons.

However, the machine-gun on board the Duke Robotics device still has to be controlled remotely by a human operator.

Copycat fears

According to Prof Sharkey, some US military officials are concerned that although the US might follow the laws of war, terrorists could easily look at drone innovations and copy the idea to kill innocent people.

“We already know that Islamic State is using drones laden with explosives to kill people. What’s to stop them from getting their hands on this? Copying has not been possible with big military drones, but once you get the idea that you can strap automatic weapons onto one and operate it remotely, that’s very much easier,” he said.

“This type of weapon is another dangerous step towards the development of fully autonomous weapons that could hunt down targets and kill them without human supervision.”

Wall Street lower on US-North Korea tensions

NYSE tradersImage copyright
Reuters

US stocks saw their largest losses since May on Thursday, as tensions mounted between North Korea and the US.

Pyongyang, which has threatened to fire missiles toward the US Pacific island territory of Guam, gave more details of its plans.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump intensified his rhetoric, saying North Korea should be “very, very nervous” if it does anything to the US.

The Dow Jones fell 0.9% to 21,844.01 and S&P 500 fell 1.5% to 2,438.21.

The Nasdaq lost 2.1% to 6,216.87.

‘Easily overshadowed’

Mr Trump earlier this week said North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US.

Some criticised the comments for being too provocative, however on Thursday he told reporters: “Maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”

Richard C Marston, of the Wharton School of finance, told the BBC: “If the North Korean situation worsens… I would expect the stock market to react negatively.

“Corporate earnings can be easily overshadowed if there is a real threat of a conflict.”

Markets had been bracing for a correction after weeks of record highs. The sell-off was widespread, with shares in financial and consumer companies leading the declines.

Two big retailers saw their shares fall rapidly after they announced results this morning.

Macy’s has been cutting costs and closing stores. It saw a surprising rise in its profits, but its shares dived 10%.

Its big rival Kohl’s said sales in its stores that had been open more than a year had fallen, and its shares were down 5.8%.

US airlines bumping from overbooked flights is at 22-year low

Delta Airlines plane in the airImage copyright
Getty Images

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Delta had the lowest “bumping” rate of 12 US airlines tracked in the report

US airlines have reported a sharp downturn in the share of passengers they force on to other flights because of overbooking.

The so-called bumping rate for the first half of the year is now the lowest it has been since 1995, the US Department of Transportation says.

The decline comes after widespread outcry over viral videos of passenger ejections earlier this year.

The backlash led airline leaders to pledge improvement.

Overall, more than 213,000 people had to take different flights because of overbooking in the first six months of the year, down from 2016 despite an uptick in total travellers, according to the report.

That figure includes flyers who agreed to give up their seats in exchange for compensation and people bumped involuntarily, whether they received compensation or not.

Why do airlines overbook?

The improvement was driven by a fall in passengers forced off their flight involuntarily, a group that is a much smaller subset of the total – 17,330 people in the first half of the year.

Pressure to improve

About one in every 19,100 passengers was denied boarding involuntarily in the first six months of the year, compared to one in every 16,000 in 2016, according to the report. That’s the lowest rate since 1995.

Delta Air Lines had the lowest rate of involuntary bumping of the 12 airlines tracked in the report, while budget carrier Spirit Airlines had the worst record.

There were more than 332 million travellers in the first half of the year, up almost 3% from 2016.

Scrutiny of overbooking and involuntary bumping increased after Dr David Dao was injured while being physically removed from a United Airlines flight in April. He later settled with the airline.

After video of his incident went viral, experiences on other airlines also drew attention.

US politicians called airline executives to a hearing, warning they would consider regulatory action if the companies did not improve.

Some airlines changed their policies after the incidents, for example, by boosting the amount of money staff can offer to persuade people to give up their seats.

Facebook’s app for under-21s Lifestage flops

LifestageImage copyright
Facebook

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Lifestage required at least 20 people from the same school to be members to let them see each other’s posts

Facebook has killed off a video-focused app targeted at under-21s less than a year after it was launched.

Lifestage was designed to connect students going to the same school or university, making all of their posts available to each other.

But it faced criticism for having limited privacy controls and a “confusing” user interface.

The firm told Business Insider it had “learned a lot” from the app and would feed this into Facebook itself.

Lifestage was developed by a product manager who was a teenager himself when it became available on the iOS App Store in late August 2016.

Members were encouraged to answer personal questions by filming video replies and were rewarded with emoji graphics for doing so.

Users were supposed to be under 21 to see others’ profiles, but the software could be fooled into providing access if older members typed in false birth dates.

The app expanded to Android in October 2016 but never achieved mass adoption.

It joins a lengthening list of other cancelled apps from the firm, which includes:

  • Groups – a standalone way to engage with common-interest communities and to arrange events with families and friends
  • Poke – a means to send messages to friends that disappeared after 10 seconds
  • Slingshot – a messaging service that let users draw on top of the photos and videos they sent to each other
  • Paper – a newsreading app whose design principles formed the basis for Facebook’s Instant Articles
  • Notify – a way to set up news story notifications from dozens of publishers
  • Riff – a video-sharing service in which users could build on the clips made by their friends
  • Rooms – a discussion app that let members share thoughts and media without revealing their true identities

Netflix buys Scots comic book firm Millarworld

Mark MillarImage copyright
PA

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Millarworld was founded by Mark Millar from Coatbridge almost 15 years ago

A Scottish comic book company has been bought by streaming giant Netflix.

Millarworld, founded by Mark Millar from Coatbridge, includes his portfolio of characters and stories such as Kick-Ass, Kingsman, and Old Man Logan.

Mr Millar said he was still “blinking” over the news.

He said it was only the third time a comic book purchase on this scale had ever happened, with Warner Bros buying DC Comics in 1968, and Disney buying Marvel in 2009.

Mr Millar, who lives in Glasgow, started Millarworld as a creator-owned comic-book company nearly 15 years ago.

He runs the company with his wife Lucy Millar.

It is the first ever company acquisition in Netflix’s history. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Mr Millar said: “I’m so in love with what Netflix is doing and excited by their plans.

“Netflix is the future and Millarworld couldn’t have a better home.”

‘Next generation’

Netflix said the acquisition was a natural progression in the company’s effort to work directly with prolific and skilled creators and to acquire intellectual property and ownership of stories.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said Mr Millar was “as close as you can get to a modern day Stan Lee” – the co-creator of Spider-Man and other Marvel characters.

He said: “Mark has created a next-generation comics universe, full of indelible characters living in situations people around the world can identify easily with.

“We look forward to creating new Netflix Originals from several existing franchises as well as new super-hero, anti-hero, fantasy, sci-fi and horror stories Mark and his team will continue to create and publish.”

Netflix and Mr Millar will bring Millarworld’s portfolio to life through films, series and kids’ shows available exclusively to Netflix members globally.

Millarworld is to continue to create and publish new stories and character franchises under the Netflix label.

Mr Millar previously worked at Marvel for eight years where he developed the comic books and story arcs that inspired the first Avengers movie, Captain America: Civil War, and Logan (Wolverine).

In a statement on his website he said: “Over the years, Millarworld has amassed 20 different franchises working with the world’s greatest artists and now Millarworld has been bought by the hottest, most exciting entertainment company on the planet.

“To say this is the best thing that ever happened in our professional lives would be an understatement.”

Netflix is the world’s leading Internet entertainment platform with 104 million members in more than 190 countries.

Death of retirement: Can the UK afford the state pension?

pension savings jarImage copyright
Getty Images

On New Year’s Day 1909, more than half a million people aged 70 and more, who had worked all their lives, had passed a means test and were of good character queued up at their Post Offices for an old age pension of five shillings a week (25p) – around £20 in today’s money.

The pension paid more than a century later is very different. Today nearly 13 million people – men over the age of 65 and women currently over the age of 64 – receive the state pension. A full one is around £160 a week (£8,300 a year) and one in seven pensioners – close on two million people – survive on nothing else.

It costs more than £100bn a year but those costs will rise in the coming decades. The Office for National Statistics projects that the cost will double to £200bn by the mid-2030s and and double again to £400bn in the 2050s.

The reason is simple, according to Michael Johnson, a research fellow at the think tank the Centre for Policy Studies.

“From 1940 to 2010 the state pension age didn’t move at all. In 1940 it was 60 for women, 65 for men, as it was in 2010,” he says.

“But life expectancy over that 70-year period had increased by around 17 years, so we are faced with a fundamental problem that this is something we should have addressed a very long time ago and didn’t and therefore to address it now makes it much, much more challenging.”

Although the state pension is hard to live on alone, to buy an equivalent index-linked income from an insurance company would cost more than £250,000. Investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown estimates that to save that much would require £300 a month for 40 years.

Can we afford to give all workers a pension that generous?

The European Union collates the data on pension spending. On that measure, in 2020, the UK will spend 7.4% of its national income, or GDP, on state pensions. That puts us 25th out of 28 members, well below the average 11.2% of their GDP.

Automatic sign-up

France, in the middle of the table, has compulsory pensions that replace 56.8% of earnings for someone on average pay. It will spend 14.6% of GDP on them, double what the UK spends. Internationally, we are misers not spendthrifts.

Things look a bit better for the UK in another OECD table which counts all pensions, including occupational and personal ones too. Then we come 22nd out of 34 for those lucky enough to have a pension through their job.

Auto-enrolment is now extending pensions at work to millions more. It counts as a compulsory pension so that will push us a few rungs up the first OECD table but not many.

Ms Queisser says: “We’ve looked at what would happen if the UK had the auto-enrolment scheme as a mandatory scheme, and then indeed the UK would move up to 22nd or 23rd.”


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Getty Images

State pension calculator – check your age and entitlement


Michael Johnson is unimpressed by the international comparisons. He believes we cannot afford the state pension. GDP estimates, he says, are uncertain and countries that spend more than the UK may not be able to do so for long.

He points out that the National Insurance contributions paid into the National Insurance fund are not always sufficient to cover the cost of paying out pensions. As a result, in 2014-15, a Treasury grant of £4.6bn was required to plug the gap, so what was going out was larger than what was coming in. The following year, 2015-16, that grant had risen to £9.6bn.

He also believes a fixed pension age is an unfair lottery. Some would draw a pension for 10 years, others for 30, but all pay the same National Insurance contributions.

As an example, he says, imagine two 65-year-old men, one living in Chelsea in west London and the other living in Tottenham Green in north London.

“The life expectancy of the 65-year-old Chelsea man is around about 88. For Tottenham Green man it is about 71.

“So Chelsea man will enjoy the state pension for about 22 years and Tottenham Green man will enjoy it for approximately five. That seems extremely unjust to me.”

The growing cost of the state pension – albeit low by international standards – has led some to suggest that it should be means-tested once more.

This could be done either by limiting it to those with an income below the current limit to get means-tested help under the present system, or by taking it away from those who are better off – perhaps aligning it with Child Benefit which is progressively taken away from parents with an income above £50,000 a year.

Listen to more on BBC Radio 4 Money Box’s series on The Death of Retirement – will the State continue to pay our pensions?

Bail of $30,000 set for UK cyber expert Marcus Hutchins

Marcus Hutchins

Image caption

Marcus Hutchins wanted to remain anonymous after the WannaCry outbreak, but his identity was revealed

US prosecutors say a British computer expert has admitted to creating software that harvests bank details.

But Marcus Hutchins’ own lawyer says he denies six charges of creating and distributing the Kronos malware.

The 23-year-old from Ilfracombe, Devon, who helped stall the WannaCry cyber-attack which hit the NHS, was arrested on Wednesday in Las Vegas.

He was granted $30,000 (£23,000) bail, but will spend the weekend in prison after not being able to pay on Friday.

As he left the courtroom Mr Hutchins was ordered to walk with his hands behind his back but he was not shackled.

No members of his family were present, but defence lawyer Adrian Lobo presented the judge with a bundle of letters.

She said they were from friends and relatives showing support for a client who had never been in trouble with the law in the US or the UK.

Mr Hutchins’ mother, Janet Hutchins, has said her son’s involvement is “hugely unlikely” because he has spent “enormous amounts of time and even his free time” combating malware.

Defence lawyer Ms Lobo told the BBC: “He’s pled not guilty. He is standing by that and he fights the charges and we intend to fight the case in Wisconsin.”

She described the federal indictment against him as “pretty flimsy, it’s pretty slim compared to what we normally see in a United States indictment.”

Prosecutors told a Las Vegas court on Friday that Mr Hutchins had been caught in a sting operation when undercover officers bought the code.

They claimed the software was sold for $2,000 in digital currency in June 2015.

Dan Cowhig, prosecuting, also told the court that Mr Hutchins had made a confession during a police interview.

“He admitted he was the author of the code of Kronos malware and indicated he sold it,” said Mr Cowhig.

The lawyer claimed there was evidence of chat logs between Mr Hutchins and an unnamed co-defendant – who has yet to be arrested – where the security researcher complained of not receiving a fair share of the money.

At the scene

By James Cook, BBC North America correspondent

There was no missing Marcus Hutchins as he was brought into courtroom 3C of the US District Court in Las Vegas.

The “surfer who saved the world” was wearing a bright yellow custody-issue T-shirt and trousers along with luminous orange socks and sandals.

Judge Nancy Kobbe was sympathetic to the defendant’s plea to be released on bail, waving away a claim from a government lawyer that the cyber-security expert posed a risk to the public because he had gone shooting on a gun range popular with tourists.

Mr Hutchins was so softly spoken that several times Ms Kobbe had to ask him to raise his voice.

Ms Lobo said Mr Hutchins denied he was the author of the malware and said he would plead not guilty to all of the charges, which date between July 2014 and July 2015.

“He has dedicated his life to researching malware, not trying to harm people,” she said. “Use the internet for good is what he has done.

“He was completely shocked, this isn’t’ something he anticipated. He came here for a work-related conference and he was fully anticipating to go back home and had no reason to be fearful of coming or going from the United States.”

Mr Hutchins came to prominence in May this year after finding a “kill switch” to stop the WannaCry ransomeware attack that hit the NHS, as well as other organisations in 150 countries.

Also known as “MalwareTech” online, Mr Hutchins was hailed as an “accidental hero” after registering a domain name to track the spread of the virus, which actually ended up halting it.

Mr Hutchins, who works for Los Angeles-based computer security firm Kryptos Logi, had been in Las Vegas to attend the Black Hat and Def Con cyber-security conferences.

He was arrested at Las Vegas airport minutes before he was due to fly home.

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Media captionWhat is ransomware?

District judge Nancy Koppe, who was presented letters of support from Mr Hutchins’ cyber-security colleagues, ordered his release on bail as he had no criminal history and because the allegations dated back two years.

However, friends and family were unable to raise the bond money before the court closed on Friday, so he will not be released until Monday.

The conditions of his bail include him not being allowed to access the internet and to stay in Clark County, Nevada, and within the Eastern District of Wisconsin, where he will appear in court on Tuesday.

He must also be monitored by GPS and surrender his passport.


What is Kronos?

Image copyright
Getty Images

Kronos is a type of malware known as a Trojan, meaning it disguises itself as legitimate software. It is thought to be named after a mythological creature.

Kronos first came to light in July 2014, when it was advertised on a Russian underground forum for $7,000 (£5,330) – a relatively high figure at the time.

It was marketed as way to steal logins for banking websites and other financial data.

Its vendor boasted it could evade existing anti-virus software and said it worked with the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome web browsers. In an unusual step, the developer promised free upgrades and bug fixes and the option of a $1,000 one week trial.

After much publicity it faded from view until October 2015, when IBM researchers reported that Kronos had been spotted in attacks on UK and Indian bank websites.

Kronos then struck again in Canada in May 2016, and in November reports surfaced that it had been spotted being distributed via emails.


IT security consultant Robin Edgar said Mr Hutchins’ own code had been incorporated into the malware, but he had not done anything wrong.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Mr Hutchins posted a tweet saying, ‘look, this Kronos thing has taken my code, stolen my code and used it in it’.

“He was very unhappy his code had been stolen and used within Kronos. He didn’t write Kronos, it looks like, but he wrote a little piece of code which was used in the malware.”

‘Astounding allegations’

Mr Hutchins’ local MP in North Devon, Peter Heaton-Jones, said he shared the “shock” of the local community over the charges.

The Conservative politician has written to Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan to seek assurance that Mr Hutchins is receiving adequate consular assistance.

Whilst Mr Heaton-Jones acknowledged the UK cannot interfere with court proceedings in the US and said he has made no judgement about his constituent, adding: “People who know him in Ilfracombe, and in the wider cyber-community, are astounded at the allegations against him.

“This is particularly so given his role in helping to protect the NHS and many other institutions from what could have been a devastating cyber-attack just a few months ago.

“I will continue to monitor his case carefully and to seek the necessary assurances from the government that the UK is doing everything in its power to assist Marcus and his family at this very difficult time.”

Digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation said it was “deeply concerned” with his arrest, whilst Naomi Colvin, from civil liberties campaign group Courage, said Mr Hutchins “did the world an enormous service” when he stopped the WannaCry attack.

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China holds drill to shut down ‘harmful’ websites

A woman making purchases through her smartphone at a shop in Beijing on 23 July 2017Image copyright
AFP

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The number of people using the internet in China is soaring

China has carried out an internet drill to practise closing down websites the authorities consider to be harmful.

State run media said Thursday’s exercise was also aimed at forcing internet data centres to hand over contact details of website owners.

China already operates a strict internet censorship regime.

Analysts say it appears to be tightening controls ahead of an important political meeting later this year.

Beijing also recently began cracking down on VPNs (virtual private networks) which allow internet users to circumvent censorship and surveillance.

Thursday’s exercise involved officers from the internet surveillance department at the public security ministry contacting internet data centres and asking them to target websites that host content deemed harmful, state media said.

The centres were asked to practise shutting down targeted web pages quickly and to report details of their owners to the police.

The BBC’s John Sudworth in Beijing says that over a two-and-a-half hour period the drill reportedly shut down a number of sites.

At least four participants confirmed the drill, including the operator of Microsoft’s cloud service in China, Reuters reported.

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Reuters

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China tries to tightly control access to online content

A document circulating online and attributed to a cyber police unit said the drill had been held “in order to step up online security for the 19th Party Congress and tackle the problem of smaller websites illegally disseminating harmful information”.

The Communist Party Congress, a key political gathering held once every five years, is to be held in the autumn.

China has a rapidly growing online population and many users have found ways to poke holes in the country’s infamous “great firewall”.

Apple recently removed several VPNs from its app store in China, saying it was legally required to do so because they did not comply with new regulations.

VPNs allow users to funnel internet access through another computer – often one in a different country – hiding their IP (internet protocol) addresses and allowing them to access websites censored or blocked by their service providers.

Beijing blocks some social media sites and apps, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Search engines such as Google are also blocked and access to many foreign media outlets, including the BBC, is restricted.

NHS cyber-defender Marcus Hutchins arrested in US

Marcus Hutchins

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Marcus Hutchins wanted to remain anonymous after the WannaCry outbreak, but his identity was later revealed

The British cyber-security researcher who was praised for stalling the worldwide WannaCry cyber-attack has been arrested in Las Vegas.

Marcus Hutchins, 23, has been charged for involvement with Kronos – a separate piece of malware used to steal banking logins from victims’ computers.

Fellow cyber-security researchers have expressed surprise at the indictment.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has said that it is aware of the situation.

WannaCry spread rapidly through computer systems around the world, in an unprecedented outbreak that began on 12 May.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Hutchins was thrust into the limelight after he found a way to stop it from spreading.

He had been in Las Vegas attending the Black Hat and Def Con cyber-security conferences, but activity on his Twitter feed – usually highly active – ceased a day ago.

Banking malware

“Marcus Hutchins… a citizen and resident of the United Kingdom, was arrested in the United States on 2 August, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a grand jury in the Eastern District of Wisconsin returned a six-count indictment against Hutchins for his role in creating and distributing the Kronos banking Trojan,” the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement.

“The charges against Hutchins, and for which he was arrested, relate to alleged conduct that occurred between in or around July 2014 and July 2015.”

Kronos is malware that is designed to steal banking login and other financial data from infected computers.

The DoJ’s indictment alleges that Mr Hutchins created and sold Kronos on internet forums, including the AlphaBay dark web market, which was recently shut down after an international law enforcement operation.

A second defendant is included in the indictment, but their name has not been made public.

Mr Hutchins’ job involves investigating malware. Some who work in the same industry have expressed disbelief at his arrest.

“It looks like the US justice system has made a huge mistake,” said fellow researcher Kevin Beaumont on Twitter.

A spokesman for the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre said: “This is a law enforcement matter and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

‘No contact’

Mr Hutchins was arrested while at an airport, according to a colleague who wished to remain anonymous.

“We tried to visit him at [the detention centre], but he was moved before visiting hours,” they told the BBC.

“We’ve not had any contact with him for 18 hours now.”

The arrest was first reported by news site Motherboard, which indicated the FBI was involved.

It is not known where Mr Hutchins is being held in custody.

The BBC has contacted Mr Hutchins’ family for comment.

The British Consulate in Los Angeles issued the following statement: “We are in touch with local authorities in Las Vegas following reports of a British man being arrested.”

San Francisco-based digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation said it was “deeply concerned” and added it was looking into the matter.


What is Kronos?

Image copyright
Getty Images

Kronos is a type of malware known as a Trojan, meaning it disguises itself as legitimate software. It is thought to be named after a mythological god of time.

Kronos first came to light in July 2014, when it was advertised on a Russian underground forum for $7,000 (£5,330) – a relatively high figure at the time.

It was marketed as way to steal log-ins for banking websites and other financial data.

Its vendor boasted it could evade existing anti-virus software and said it worked with the latest versions of the Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome web browsers. In an unusual step, the developer promised free upgrades and bug fixes and the option of a $1,000 one week trial.

After much publicity it faded from view until October 2015, when IBM researchers reported that Kronos had been spotted in attacks on UK and Indian bank websites.

Kronos then struck again in May 2016, when the cyber-security firm Proofpoint reported that it had been used to target customers of Canadian financial institutions.

In November the same year, Proofpoint reported it had spotted the Trojan being distributed via emails sent to organisations involved in the financial services, hospitality, higher education and healthcare industries.

The messages contained attachments and links that claimed to be related to Microsoft Sharepoint documents, but in fact led victims’ computers to be infected with other malware, including a credit card number-stealing tool.

Kronos’ primary targets this time appeared to be in the UK and North America.

Game of Thrones unseen episode spoilers leaked

White walkersImage copyright
PA

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Scripts and copies of unseen episodes are believed to be in the material placed online

A summary of an unseen Games of Thrones episode and copies of other HBO shows have been put online by a hacker group that breached the firm’s network.

The hackers uploaded a text file of the Games of Thrones instalment and an annotated video of the script.

They also shared three episodes of popular HBO TV shows on a site created to host what they stole.

The group behind the breach said it managed to grab more than 1.5 terabytes of data from the firm.

Breach count

On Monday, when news of the data breach began circulating, HBO confirmed that it had been hit by a “cyber-incident” that had led to the loss of some data.

“We immediately began investigating the incident and are working with law enforcement and outside cyber-security firms,” it added.

Some episodes of the HBO shows Ballers and Room 104 were quickly leaked online.

Added to these now are scripts and summaries for episodes three and four of the seventh season of Game of Thrones.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Netflix shows were stolen in a separate data breach earlier this year

The script for episode four bears a date of April 2016, suggesting it was an early draft rather than the finished, filmed episode.

Also made available were two episodes of upcoming HBO comedy show Barry and one of the Insecure show.

Files containing log-in details for some HBO staff are also believed to have been made available.

Several other large files were also put online but so far no-one has been able to work out what is in them.

Panda Security urged people to avoid any website that made the stolen files available for copying.

“Instead of the new season of a hit show, your system may end up getting infected with malicious software,” it warned.

The security firm added that the hackers behind the breach, or those that share the files around, were not acting benevolently.

It said: “They are money driven and would gladly steal your information too without any hesitation.”

HBO is just the latest in a long list of media firms to be hit by hackers, or who have had data stolen.

In May, unseen episodes of the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black were put online by a hacker after the media firm refused to pay a ransom for their return.

Dark web markets boom after AlphaBay and Hansa busts

TradeRouteImage copyright
Cyberint

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TradeRoute has seen its illegal listings rise following the demise of AlphaBay

Trade on several of the dark web’s illegal markets has boomed since two major players were shut by the authorities last month, according to research carried out for the BBC.

The US and Dutch authorities forced AlphaBay and Hansa offline to prevent the sale of drugs, weapons and malware.

But over the last week of July, other sites saw their number of listings rise by as much as 28%, the study indicates.

Sales of some goods do, however, appear to have been reduced.

“There is growing evidence that when one illegal dark web marketplace is closed, the illicit business quickly starts to be redirected to other sites which are still active,” commented Elad Ben-Meir, marketing chief at the Israeli cyber-security firm Cyberint, which carried out the research.

“However, there is also evidence that continuing crackdowns by international law enforcement operations, are having the effect of forcing illicit traders away from those sites selling firearms or child pornography.”

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Media captionTechnology explained: What is the dark web?

The markets are given the “dark web” moniker because they cannot be accessed via a normal internet browser without using a workaround, and their listings are hidden from mainstream search engines.

‘Fear and uncertainty’

The closure of AlphaBay and Hansa was revealed on 20 July.

Cyberint looked at what change in activity there had been on five other leading dark web markets between 24 July and 31 July.

According to its numbers, Dream Market is now the biggest illegal store with a total of 98,844 listings at the end of the month.

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The authorities revealed their closure of AlphaBay and Hansa last month

The site was launched in late 2013 and is now one of the oldest dark web markets in existence.

Its number of listings rose by 3,818 over the course of the week.

While that was the biggest increase of the surveyed sites in numerical terms, it represented a relatively modest increase of 3.9%.

“There is some interesting buzz around Dream Market potentially being compromised and/or under law enforcement control, which is feeding fear and uncertainty amongst vendors and buyers,” said Mr Ben-Meir.

“That is probably why Dream Market has not grown substantially in the wake of the takedowns.”

Europol and the FBI have promised “hundreds” of follow-up investigations off the back of their initial takedowns.

Dream Market vendors are aware that Hansa was seized and covertly monitored for about a month after AlphaBay was deactivated.

That has led to unverified speculation on several online forums that Dream Market’s servers have also been hijacked.

‘Touting for business’

The next biggest site is TradeRoute, which rose from 14,914 listings to 17,816 over the period – a 16.3% gain.

It includes forged documents and black market tobacco and alcohol among its wares.

“TradeRoute is actively touting for new business with threads welcoming vendors displaced from AlphaBay,” said Cyberint’s report.

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Cyberint

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The Tochka marketplace is believed to be of Russian origin

In percentage terms, Tochka can claim the biggest boost. Its listings rose by 28.1% to 2,390.

The site specialises in illegal and prescription drugs among other products.

Wall Street Market, a relatively new platform with a more polished design than is the norm for such sites, experienced a similar lift.

Its number of listings grew by 25.4% over the week to 2,216.

Gun market

Of the markets covered, only one experienced a drop-off in activity.

RsClub Market is the only one of the five sites to sell guns – its only restriction on weapons listings is that they must not offer “weapons of mass destruction”.

The site’s listing count dropped by 638 to 1,689 over the week – a 37.8% fall-off.

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Cyberint

Image caption

RsClub Market lists weapons as well as drugs and other illegal goods

Cyberint suggested that this might be linked to the fact the Rand Corporation think tank and the University of Manchester had jointly published a report into the size and scope of the dark web’s illegal arms trade on 19 July. It said that 60% of the weapons put on sale had been sourced from the US, and that terrorists were among suspected buyers.

Cyberint believes those looking to buy and sell other illegal goods might now be steering clear of RsClub Market because it was likely to be a focus of follow-up investigations.

One adviser to Europol said the findings were of interest but only told half the story.

“The takedowns have certainly not discouraged the vendors but it’s still not totally clear if it has put off the buyers,” said Alan Woodward.

“The sellers believe they are relatively immune – they don’t use their real details so are hard to track down even if a site is commandeered – but the users have to give delivery addresses and the like.

“That’s why the emphasis is on taking the markets down and that’s exactly what law enforcement wants to do.”

Bitcoin rebels risk ‘currency trading chaos’

BitcoinImage copyright
Getty Images

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Bitcoin Cash’s creators plan to offer the new currency to owners of existing bitcoins

A split in the Bitcoin community is set to create a new incompatible version of the cryptocurrency on Tuesday.

A group of insiders is unhappy with existing plans to speed up transaction times.

They plan to offer existing investors a matching amount of a new virtual asset – called Bitcoin Cash – which could put pressure on the value of original bitcoins.

One expert has warned there could be trading “chaos” over the coming days.

Several popular Bitcoin platforms are refusing to support the new coins.

That means investors who currently rely on some Bitcoin currency exchanges and virtual wallets will be unable to take advantage of the offer unless they switch to alternative providers. And moving from one platform to another carries risks of its own.

“Nobody can be sure how this is going to play out over the short term,” commented Iqbal Gandham, UK managing director of the eToro trading platform.

Compromise plan

The breakaway plan was revealed just over a week ago after it emerged that a compromise scheme to reform Bitcoin appeared to have gathered enough support to be adopted.

The middle-ground solution – known as Segwit2x – is an attempt to address one of Bitcoin’s constraints: at present the ledger of past transactions, known as the blockchain, can have only one megabyte of data added to it every 10 minutes.

The limitation was originally introduce to protect Bitcoin from cyber-attacks, but has meant some users have had to wait days for their transactions to complete at busy times.

Two conflicting solutions were initially proposed:

  • to increase the size of each block of the blockchain to more than one megabyte, which would allow more transactions to be processed in each batch
  • to relocate some of the information from the blockchain to a separate file, which would be transmitted alongside it

Many “miners” – dedicated businesses and others that contribute computer processing power to authorise transactions in return for the chance of being awarded newly minted Bitcoins – favoured the former plan.

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EPA

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Thousands of computers are dedicated to solving complex problems to authorise Bitcoin transactions

But many developers – those working on Bitcoin’s code or that of associated software – preferred the latter.

The Segwit2x initiative solved the impasse by suggesting the data-splitting step should occur in August and then be followed by an increase in the block size to 2MB in November.

Under the terms of a related scheme – referred to as Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 91 (BIP 91) – the first step would only happen if 80% of the mining effort adopted the new blockchain software required and used it consistently between 21 July and 31 July.

New coins for old

After more than 95% of miners signalled their support for the plan it was widely assumed that a Bitcoin “civil war” had been averted.

But then ex-Facebook engineer Amaury Sechet and other Bitcoin insiders revealed plans to launch Bitcoin Cash on 1 August at 12:20 UTC (13:20 BST).

They claimed that the danger with the Segwit2x scheme was that there was no guarantee a doubling of the block size would follow the data-splitting step, as promised.

Instead their new currency would have a block size of 8MB and ditch the data-dividing idea.

To further complicate matters, some Bitcoin exchanges are divided about whether to support the creation of Bitcoin Cash and allow its trade, with several yet to declare their plans.

Furthermore, some exchanges plan to suspend or restrict trade in Bitcoin altogether for several days until they are confident that any disruption has passed.

Potential chaos

The uncertainty surrounding Bitcoin Cash’s chances has led to one futures market in Bitcoin Cash to value one coin as being worth about $267, a fraction of the $2,780 each bitcoin was trading at short time ago.

In theory, if mass adoption were expected, the two currencies should be much closer in price.

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Getty Images

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Some Bitcoin exchanges plan to freeze trade in the virtual currency for two or more days

“There’s massive uncertainty and the quoted futures price should be taken with a grain of salt,” commented Dr Garrick Hileman, research fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance.

“We won’t know the real Bitcoin Cash price until a number of exchanges across the world start trading it, and it’s still not clear when that will happen.”

And he added that there could be some wild swings in the value of both types of Bitcoin over the coming days.

“My sense is that the split can be managed if exchanges and wallets take the necessary precautions,” he explained.

“But I suspect some will not be well prepared as this happened quickly and a lot of organisations are coming on board at the last minute.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there is some chaos.”

BT offers universal broadband in place of regulation

House on a lochImage copyright
Getty Images

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Some remote homes have struggled to get decent broadband connections

BT has offered to provide the infrastructure for 99% of premises in the UK to get broadband speeds of at least 10 megabits per second by 2020.

If accepted, it would mean government-proposed rules, allowing those living in remote areas to demand broadband, were unnecessary.

BT says it would invest up to £600m and coverage would be universal by 2022.

About 1.4 million households currently cannot get speeds above 10Mbps, according to Ofcom.

This figure is disputed by a group of MPs who say there are a further 5.3 million who have not chosen to take up faster broadband services, some of whom may also not be able to get 10Mbps speeds.

In a recently published report, they called on regulator Ofcom to more clearly distinguish between the take-up and actual availability of fast broadband.

The government has proposed a universal service obligation (USO), designed to help remote households get fast broadband more quickly, by granting them the right to request broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps – speeds which the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport says would “meet the typical needs of a family”. That proposal is currently under consultation.

BT’s alternative proposal would see the company rolling out the necessary infrastructure “proactively” rather than waiting for a request. The investment would be recouped through customers’ bills.

‘Warm welcome’

The government will now consider whether to abandon the USO in light of BT’s offer.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it would consult on BT’s proposal, adding that, if the offer was accepted, it would be legally binding.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: “We warmly welcome BT’s offer and now will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses.

“Whichever of the two approaches we go with in the end, the driving force behind our decision-making will be making sure we get the best deal for consumers.”

But Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said that the 10Mbps target was low and warned that customers must not be forced to pay more.

He said: “Families and businesses in areas without the minimum speed may see some hope in this announcement, but they will be rightly wary that they will be forced to pay the price in extra or hidden charges. That would not be acceptable and the government must take that into account.

“Businesses will also be concerned that the 10 Mbps minimum broadband speed will be outdated and inadequate before it is even fully delivered. Rather than choose an ambitious broadband speed the government went with the cheapest, which will leave us running to catch up with digital developments for years to come.”

The telecoms firm claimed that by using a range of technologies, including fibre and fixed wireless, broadband can reach 99% of the UK by 2020. By 2022 BT suggests less than 1% of customers would receive broadband via satellite, rather than built infrastructure.

It added that it was already well on the way to offering fast services around the country, with 95% of premises able to access speeds of 24Mbps or faster by the end of 2017.

‘A right to broadband’

It estimated that the rollout would cost between £450m and £600m and would largely be delivered by BT’s spun-off network firm Openreach.

“Our latest initiative aims to ensure that all UK premises can get faster broadband, even in the hardest to reach parts of the UK,” said BT chief executive Gavin Patterson.

There have been criticisms that the UK was falling behind other nations in both the availability and speed of broadband services.

The universal service obligation (USO) – which the government planned to roll out in 2020 – would have meant that everyone, regardless of where they live, would have the right to request a broadband connection, and BT would have to provide the infrastructure.

It was seen as a way to speed up broadband rollout to remote areas which for years have languished on slower net speeds because providers such as BT and Virgin Media saw no profit in offering services to areas with small populations.

BT’s announcement comes after figures were released by the British Infrastructure Group of MPs showing the worst areas in the UK for broadband.

Telecoms regulator Ofcom forced BT to legally separate its broadband infrastructure division Openreach in March.

The move was intended to shake up UK broadband, with the view that an independent Openreach would deliver better customer service and investment in broadband.

Since the split, Openreach has pledged to offer super-fast fibre broadband to 10 million homes by 2025, using technology known as fibre to the premises (FTTP) which it had previously said was too expensive for wide rollout.


10 worst constituencies for download speeds

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Thinkstock

  1. Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Scotland 65.6%
  2. Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland 63.7%
  3. Argyll and Bute, Scotland 61.7%
  4. Orkney and Shetland, Scotland 61.7%
  5. Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Wales 58.2%
  6. Montgomeryshire, Wales 58%
  7. Kingston upon Hull East, Yorkshire and the Humber 56.8%
  8. Ceredigion, Wales 55.1%
  9. North Herefordshire, West Midlands 54.9%
  10. Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, Scotland 52.2%

Percentage of connections below 10 Mb/s

West Highlands worst in UK for broadband, MPs find

Image caption

The parliamentary constituency that covers Skye was the worst in the UK for broadband

The parliamentary constituency of Ross, Skye and Lochaber is the worst area in the UK for broadband, new figures show.

A total of 65.6% of connections in the rural constituency were below the UK government’s proposed minimum standard of 10 megabits per second (Mb/s).

Scotland had eight of the 20 worst performing areas, according to analysis by the British Infrastructure Group of MPs.

It was closely followed by Wales with seven.

MPs’ analysis of download speed data recorded by Ofcom in 2016 found Scotland had the four worst performing parliamentary constituencies in the UK.

More than 60% of connections in three other Scottish constituencies – Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Argyll and Bute and Orkney and Shetland – failed to reach download speeds of 10 Mb/s.

‘On track’

Kingston upon Hull East was the worst constituency in England for download speeds, with 56.8% of connections failing to hit the government’s proposed universal service obligation.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to delivering 100% superfast broadband access across Scotland by 2021.

“This is the most ambitious commitment in the UK – focusing on delivery of speeds over 30mbps – whilst there is still no clarity from the UK government on how they intend to implement the proposed Universal Service Obligation for broadband – which will deliver just 10mbps.

“Alongside our partners, we have invested over £410m in the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme and are on track to deliver fibre broadband access to at least 95% of premises across Scotland by end 2017, and that thanks to the programme around 780,000 premises have been connected to fibre.”


10 worst constituencies for download speeds

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Thinkstock

  1. Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Scotland 65.6%
  2. Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland 63.7%
  3. Argyll and Bute, Scotland 61.7%
  4. Orkney and Shetland, Scotland 61.7%
  5. Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Wales 58.2%
  6. Montgomeryshire, Wales 58%
  7. Kingston upon Hull East, Yorkshire and the Humber 56.8%
  8. Ceredigion, Wales 55.1%
  9. North Herefordshire, West Midlands 54.9%
  10. Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, Scotland 52.2%

(Percentage of connections below 10 Mb/s)

Nest camera and Amazon Echo help catch home intruders

Amazon and NestImage copyright
Amazon/Nest

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Intruders were caught out by the two smart home products

Google’s Nest camera and Amazon’s Echo speaker have both helped catch home intruders in the US, it has emerged.

Video recorded by the security cam revealed a Colorado landlord used his tenants’ apartment without permission, to have sex.

Carlos Quijada-Lara has pleaded guilty to a trespassing charge and will be sentenced in September.

The speaker helped solve a separate case in which it recorded an alleged house-breaker’s voice.

This was subsequently recognised as belonging to a child of the victim’s neighbour, according to the Associated Press news agency.

It said the nine-year-old boy was now facing breaking-and-entering and larceny charges.

A local newspaper added that the unnamed boy had admitted to breaking into the home on three separate occasions.

It said that although the Echo speaker was itself stolen during one of the break-ins, its owner had been able to recover recordings it had made via her smartphone.

Cloud recording

The Smoking Gun news site was the first to report the guilty plea in the Nest camera case, which the BBC subsequently verified with a local court clerk.

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Colorado Springs Police Department

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Quijada-Lara is due to be sentenced on 22 September

Although Quijada-Lara had given his tenants a lease saying he had the right to enter their flat, prosecutors said he had still committed a felony.

Footage uploaded to the cloud by the camera revealed the landlord and another man had had sex on a bed in the apartment and then used a wedding dress belonging to the married couple to clean up afterwards.

The case generated local notoriety after some of the captured video was broadcast on local TV news bulletins last December.

“I opened up the camera and kind of had to like quit the program and, like, restart it again because I didn’t really believe what I saw,” the flat’s tenant Logan Pierce told KKTV 11 News at the time.

“I guess the first thing that went through my mind was like complete and utter disbelief.”

The growing popularity of smart home devices has been accompanied by concerns that they may put owners’ privacy at risk.

But the latest two cases illustrate the potential for the tech to protect them as well.

Jeff Bezos: Five things you may not know about Amazon’s founder

Jeff BezosImage copyright
Getty Images

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos briefly overtook Bill Gates on Thursday to become the world’s richest person, as his worth hit $91.4bn (£70bn).

A sharp rise in Amazon shares meant Mr Bezos’s wealth eclipsed that of the Microsoft co-founder for a time according to Forbes.

But as Amazon shares fell back, Mr Gates regained the top spot.

Mr Bezos, 53, owns about 17% of the shares in Amazon, but also has interests in several other businesses.

Recently soaring technology stocks have fuelled huge growth in the worth of entrepreneurs such as Mr Bezos and Facebook founder Mark Zuckberberg, 33, who is number five on Forbes’s list.

But the last person to steal the lead was Spanish fashion boss Amancio Ortega, founder of Zara’s owner Inditex. He was the world’s richest man for two days last September.

Amazon’s current share price puts Mr Bezos only marginally behind Mr Gates.

Here are five things you may not know about Mr Bezos:

1. His spending is rocketing

Earlier this year Mr Bezos paid $23m for an old textile museum in Washington DC. Once it’s converted to a family home, the Bezos family will be near neighbours in the exclusive neighbourhood with the Obamas, as well as Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.

At least that’s what the Washington Post reported, a reliable source presumably since Mr Bezos bought the paper in 2013 with $250m of his own money.

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Getty Images

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The former textile museum in Washington DC bought by Jeff Bezos

The Bezos family also has homes in Seattle and Beverly Hills, but expenditure on property pales into insignificance compared to Mr Bezos’s foremost passion: rocket science.

Mr Bezos says he is selling about $1bn of Amazon stock every year to fund Blue Origin, the project he has founded to develop commercial space travel.

2. He is generous with bananas

It was Mr Bezos’s idea to start giving away bananas to passers-by in Amazon’s home town of Seattle – a generous gesture, especially since about 4,500 people reportedly take up the offer every day. But when it comes to philanthropy that is still peanuts compared to his peers.

While he and his family have given millions to good causes, Mr Bezos has been criticised for not doing enough. He doesn’t splash out for non-profits on the scale that Bill Gates, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and others do, and is yet to join the 169 of his wealthy peers who have pledged to give away half their personal fortune.

But last month Mr Bezos appeared to be toying with new ideas in the philanthropic sphere.

He tweeted a request for suggestions as to how he could give money away that would have an impact “here and now” – a kind of next-day-delivery philanthropy.

It remains to be seen which proposals – ranging from libraries to tech talent in Africa – have caught his imagination.

3. His brother is the real hero

Good causes are already very much the domain of Jeff’s brother Mark Bezos. He switched from a career in advertising to work for the New York based anti-poverty organisation Robin Hood.

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James Duncan Davidson / TED

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Mark Bezos is also a volunteer firefighter

In a 2011 TED talk Mark Bezos relates how, attending his first fire as a volunteer, he was keen to show what he was made of. But someone else was asked to brave the smouldering building to rescue the owner’s puppy.

Mark was given the less glamorous task of finding her a pair of shoes. But she was still extremely grateful.

He draws this lesson: if you have something to give, however small, do it now.

Any ideas for Jeff?

4. Jeff’s a true Trekkie

One advantage of being super-rich is that people indulge your fantasies. As a life-long Star Trek fan, Mr Bezos was able to secure a minor role in the latest movie.

But you may find it hard to spot him on film, since the Vine he posted shows him pretty effectively disguised in a wrinkly grey mask.

He has never really disguised his inner geek however.

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Jeff Bezos

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Jeff Bezos in full Trekkie alien costume

As a child he spent a lot of time with his grandparents on their Texas ranch (learning to vaccinate cattle amongst other vital skills) and his interest in number-crunching was already apparent.

“At that age I’d take any excuse to make estimates and do minor arithmetic. I’d calculate our gas mileage, I’d figure out useless statistics on things like grocery spending,” he told Princeton’s class of 2010.

For example he whiled away some time calculating that smoking would be likely to take nine years off his grandmother’s life.

“I expected to be awarded for my cleverness and my arithmetic skills,” he said. But his grandmother burst into tears.

Grandfather talked him through how sometimes “it’s harder to be kind than clever”.

5. He can do blue sky thinking

As well as the fun stuff he has a serious futuristic vision.

Early on he was already imagining space hotels, amusement parks, and cities orbiting the Earth. And Mr Bezos’s dreams are getting bigger.

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Jeff Bezos

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Jeff Bezos has boots bearing the slogan of his Blue Origin space company

“I want millions of people living and working in space. I want us to be a space-faring civilisation,” he told Geekwire last year.

He predicts that in the next few hundred years we will put all our heavy industry off this planet, mine resources and generate energy in space, leaving earth a much more pleasant place to live on.

Mr Bezos does plan to go into space himself too, of course – once Blue Origin is ready to take him.

But as Blue Origin’s slogan says: Gradatim Ferociter, (apparently Latin for “Step by Step, Ferociously”) maybe he’s not rushing things.

Highs – and lows

1994 Quits Wall Street job to start Amazon

1999 Named Time’s Person of the Year

2000 Launches Blue Origin spaceflight firm

2013 Buys the Washington Post

2015 New York Times publishes report painting a critical picture of working conditions at Amazon, which Mr Bezos says he “doesn’t recognise”

2015 Amazon appears to have come full circle when it opens its first physical bookstore in Seattle

2016 Drawn into a public spat with Trump over the Washington Post and taxes

2017 Manchester By The Sea, a feature produced by Amazon Studios, wins two Oscars including best actor for Casey Affleck, while the studio also picks up the Best Foreign Language gong for The Salesman.

Google tests auto-play videos in search results

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Google

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Some Google Search users are seeing video clips auto-play in the right-hand side of search results

Google has confirmed that it is trialling videos that automatically start playing when they appear in its search results.

The test comes at a time when its rival Apple is preparing to make it easier to prevent videos from self-starting within its web browser.

Facebook has also faced criticism for recently automatically turning on sound for auto-play videos on its platform.

One expert said the feature could be a fresh money-spinner for Google.

But for now the firm is unwilling to reveal its intentions.

“We are constantly experimenting with ways to improve the search experience for our users, but have no plans to announce at this time,” a spokesman said.

The BBC understands, however, that Google will reveal more about its plans on Thursday.

‘Deeply annoying’

Google’s auto-play feature was first reported by industry site The SEM Post earlier in the week.

The videos appear on the right-hand side of results and appear to be limited to queries involving films at this time. Only a limited number of users are affected.

In the examples that SEM Post saw, the viewer still had to turn on the sound if they wanted to hear it and the feature was restricted to desktop searches.

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Google

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Most users still have to press a play icon to make videos start

The news site was able to see the feature on the international, UK and Canadian versions of Google’s Search service. However, when tested by the BBC, the videos appeared but did not auto-play.

The clips were sourced from YouTube. At this time they do not feature pre-roll adverts, which are included when the same trailers are viewed directly on the video-streaming site.

Even if Google opts not to pursue an ad-based model, it could still profit from the feature if it charges film studios and other industries to pay for the privilege of having their clips start without prompting.

“Auto-play videos are deeply annoying to a vast swathe of users, so if Google decides to go down this route it will no doubt enrage a very vocal part of the internet community,” commented Ben Wood from the CCS Insight tech consultancy.

“However, there is always a commercial angle to any of these decisions and there are clearly some significant benefits to being able to auto-serve content even if people don’t necessarily want it.”

Disrupted vibe

The inclusion of auto-play video adverts in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has already proved to be a revenue-spinner for the three platforms.

“I think that we proved that having a quick start auto-play can be a good experience,” said Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg in 2013 after adding the feature.

“If it’s good content then that can be really good.”

However, Apple revealed last month that it had felt compelled to make it easy for users to block the technology in the next version of its MacOS operating system.

“Sometimes you go to read an article and instead of finding something to read you get… video that auto-plays and disrupts your whole reading vibe,” said engineering chief Craig Federighi at Apple’s developer conference.

“Safari detects the sites that shouldn’t be playing video and puts you in control – you can always push play.”

It is as yet unclear whether Apple’s blocking facility would apply to Google.

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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Twitter

Rio Tinto facing SFO investigation

Rio Tinto mineImage copyright
AFP

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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Getty Images

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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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US Department of Justice

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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.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

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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Google

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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 – Google.com -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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Google

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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 Google.com 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

UK F-35Image copyright
PA

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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YouTube

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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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Magnum Photos

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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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AFP/Getty Images

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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

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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

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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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FiB

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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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Brooke Binkowski

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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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Getty Images

Image caption

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

Malcolm TurnbullImage copyright
EPA

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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Media captionWhat is encryption?

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

Lewis Hamilton in action at the Austrian Grand PrixImage copyright
Getty Images

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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Reuters

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

Nokia Health Mate appImage copyright
Nokia

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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

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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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Screenshot

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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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Media captionWhat is ransomware?

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

Image caption

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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Paul Michael Hughes/Guinness Wor

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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.”

Image caption

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

Breaking News image

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

Emirates Airbus A380 shortly after touching down in AucklandImage copyright
AFP

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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Getty Images

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
Getty Images

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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.

‘Severe’

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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Getty Images

Image caption

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

PlaneImage copyright
PA

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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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Twitter

“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.

Image copyright
Getty Images

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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

Getty Images


‘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

Stormzy performing at GlastonburyImage copyright
PA

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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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Twitter

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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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Getty Images

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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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NCR

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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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PA

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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Reuters

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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

Uber chief Travis KalanickImage copyright
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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.

Scandals

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’

Information on Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui is displayed on a screen during a journalists' press conference in Mexico City on June 19, 2017Image copyright
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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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PIGEYRE Pascal – MasterFilms

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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

Whole Foods storeImage copyright
Reuters

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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PA

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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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Webroot

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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.

Scattergun

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.