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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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.”

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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

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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

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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

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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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
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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

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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

Broadband routerImage copyright
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.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

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

Image caption

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

Image caption

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

Image caption

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

Google SearchImage copyright
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.

Image copyright
Google

Image caption

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

Warning message

Image caption

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.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

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

Media playback is unsupported on your device

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.”

Image copyright
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

Seized noticed on AlphaBayImage copyright
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.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

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

Google news feedImage copyright
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

Image caption

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

DroneImage copyright
YouTube

Image caption

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?

Young people looking at online contentImage copyright
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?”


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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DeepMind AI is learning to walk and other tech news

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

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

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

Australian PM seeks access to encrypted messages

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

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Campaigner Harnaam Kaur said she received death threats

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

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

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

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

‘Mean comments’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EU and Japan reach free trade deal

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.

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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
ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty

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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Getty Images

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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.

Uber chief Travis Kalanick may face bumpy ride

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Travis Kalanick is Uber’s chief executive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Grow up’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News and sports websites ‘vulnerable to attack’

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Many news and sport websites do not use secure HTTPS connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopping and gaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Click on the padlock’

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

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

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

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

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

E3 2017: Gamers head to LA to play

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Thousands of people attend E3 every year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft aims ultra-high

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Microsoft’s Phil Spencer announced Project Scorpio in 2016

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

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

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

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

Nintendo expands its offer

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Nintendo says Switch is its fastest-selling console

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

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

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

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

Virtual reality

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Sony has sold a million PS VR headsets

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

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

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

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

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


Where to watch the big announcements

Saturday 10 June

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

Sunday 11 June

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

Monday 12 June

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

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

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

Tuesday 13 June

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

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

Softbank buys robot-maker Boston Dynamics from Alphabet

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Media captionVideo of the Atlas robot was released last year

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

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

Softbank also announced it is buying robotics group Schaft.

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

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

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

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Softbank founder Masayoshi Son

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

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

Sony sells one million VR headsets

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Sony said sales had exceeded expectations

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

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

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

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

Mr Morita has high hopes for the technology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uber fires 20 staff after harassment investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Silicon Valley have a sexism problem?

Uber’s mess reaches beyond sexism – and Silicon Valley

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

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

Some of those fired held senior positions, she said.


The 215 claims investigated were broken down as follows:

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

Action taken and cases under review:

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


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

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

Some changes are already in place.

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

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

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

Uber employs more than 12,000 people globally.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

Hands-on with the new iPad Pro and iOS11

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

London attack: PM’s condemnation of tech firms criticised

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No place on our platform’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Analysis: Joe Lynam, BBC business correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

US can ask visa applicants for social media history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google to let publishers charge users for ad-blockers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ViaSat-2: Satellite goliath goes into orbit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inmarsat rides SpaceX Falcon

Intelsat rolls out next-gen system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos

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

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Basildon Council published information about a traveller family’s disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

Its investigation found the authority received a written statement in support of a planning application for proposed works on green belt land on 16 July 2015.

The statement contained sensitive personal data relating to the traveller family who had lived on the site for several years.

‘Serious incident’

The ICO said an inexperienced council officer did not notice the personal information, and there was no procedure in place for a second person to check it before it was published online.

The information was only removed on 4 September 2015 when the concerns came to light.

ICO enforcement manager Sally Anne Poole said: “This was a serious incident in which highly sensitive personal data, including medical information, was made publicly available.

“Planning applications in themselves can be controversial and emotive, so to include such sensitive information and leave it out there for all to see for several weeks is simply unacceptable.”

A Basildon Council spokesman said: “The council has been given 28 days in which to lodge an appeal against this decision. We are taking advice and considering our position.”

‘One in two’ young online gamers bullied, report finds

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Media captionOne online gamer told the BBC he had experienced death threats online.

A study carried out by an anti-bullying charity found that 57% of the young people it surveyed had experienced bullying online when playing games.

In addition, 22% said they had stopped playing a game as a result.

Ditch the Label surveyed around 2,500 young members of the virtual hotel platform Habbo, aged between 12 and 25.

One 16-year-old gamer, Bailey Mitchell, told the BBC he had experienced bullying while playing online games since the age of 10.

“If you’re going to school every day and you’re being bullied in school you want to go home to your computer to escape,” he said.

“So if you’re getting more abuse thrown at you it’s going to put you off doing anything social – it has for a lot of people I know, me included.

“It’s regular, every other game you’re in, there’s always someone who has a mic or types in chat. They’ll call you some random abusive thing they can think of.”

Death threats

Mr Mitchell said he regularly received death threats but enjoyed playing online as the competition against others made the games more challenging.

“Now, when I get things, I’ll reply with something funny or ignore it. But when I was 10 it was like: who are these people, why are they being mean to me?”

Ditch the Label chief executive Liam Hackett said his charity was launching a global campaign to try to tackle the problem.

“Bullying within online gaming environments is a real issue,” he said.

“We are standing for acceptance and tolerance within our games and making the internet a better place.”

The report also found:

  • 47% of those surveyed said they had been threatened in an online game
  • 38% said they had been hacked within a game
  • 74% said they would like the issue to be taken more seriously
  • 29% said bullying and trolling did not affect their enjoyment of online games

Around half of the respondents said they believed extra human moderation would help prevent bullying from occurring.

“Online games are often violent and based upon conflict,” said Dr Ian Rivers, a psychologist at the University of Strathclyde.

“However this study also shows us that we also need to look at the ways in which people interact online while gaming.”

Has the time now come for internet voting?

tab on keyboardImage copyright
iStock

The use of internet – or electronic – voting in elections is growing. But there are still plenty of concerns about reliability, safety and privacy. Will electing your government via the tap of a smartphone ever catch on?

Next month people in the UK will vote in a general election, heading to polling stations at schools, libraries and other public buildings to put a cross on a piece of paper.

In the digital era, it all seems quaintly archaic.

Bad weather can put people off going to vote, while others forget to register or might be away on holiday and not have arranged a postal vote.

Couldn’t technology remove some of these barriers to democratic involvement?

Estonia certainly thinks so.

About 14 countries have used some form of online voting, but Estonia was the first to introduce permanent national internet voting.

The small Baltic state began using online voting in 2005, and i-voting has served in eight elections. In the 2005 local elections, only 1.9% of voters cast their ballot online, rising to more than 30% in the most recent parliamentary election.

“I-voting has become massive, and statistically there is no such thing as a typical i-voter,” says Arne Koitmae, deputy head of Estonia’s Electoral Office.

“All voters, irrespective of gender, income, education, nationality and even computer skills, have the likelihood of becoming an i-voter,” he says.

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Thinkstock

Image caption

The ability to vote by smartphone would engage young people in politics, say campaigners

Online voting is a good way to engage with younger voters, busy workers, and even Estonians living abroad, Mr Koitmae says. “In 2015, Estonians living in 116 different countries participated in the elections using internet voting.”

However, it does not seem to have increased the total number of people voting, he says. Rather, people have changed their preferred method of voting.

Encryption

Since Estonia’s i-voting began, there have been no serious security issues, Mr Koitmae says. The technology and processes used are updated regularly based on technical advances and experiences from each election.

A crucial part of Estonia’s system is that online voting is linked to the country’s state-of-the-art electronic identity cards – carried by every citizen and resident.

Digital ID cards allow for the secure authentication of the owner online, and enables a digital signature to be linked to the account. Newer cards include an electronic copy of the owner’s fingerprints.

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PA

Image caption

Little has changed in the way the UK votes since 1872

Estonian voter Igor Hobotov says the ID-linked i-voting system makes him feel a lot more secure when voting than a paper-based method. In fact, he says he might not vote at all if the online option was not available to him.

“I have e-voted multiple times, in local elections and parliament elections. Mostly I’ve been at home, but once I even voted on holiday from Cape Town. I prefer to e-vote because it is more convenient and more secure – we have a digital ID card with [strong] encryption, which is really, really hard to hack,” Mr Hobotov says.

“I can vote without any hassle, just sat at the computer. I would probably never vote if I had to go somewhere to do it.”


More Technology of Business

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How Cuba’s growing internet is fuelling new businesses

How DNA-testing kits are becoming big business

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Seeing the light: How India is embracing solar power


Australia’s state of New South Wales allows voters with impaired vision, other disabilities, those in rural areas, and those not present in the state on election day to vote online or via telephone in state general elections.

A few municipalities in Canada allow for online voting in municipal elections, but the government has specifically decided against it for federal elections.

Norway tested i-voting in parliamentary elections in 2011 and 2013, but decided to discontinue online voting due to political disagreement and voters’ concerns.

And France previously allowed citizens living abroad to cast their vote online in legislative elections, but has disallowed this for the upcoming June legislative elections amid cyber-security concerns.

Privacy

Would Estonia-style i-voting work in the UK?

Recently, a special report by the Digital Democracy Commission recommended that by 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters.

Image copyright
Matthew Burton

Image caption

Matthew Burton thinks i-voting could trivialise the electoral process

UK voter Matthew Burton says he definitely wouldn’t switch the paper and pen vote for an online system.

“Voting is an important activity, and something people have died for and continue to die for. It should be more important than pressing a button on a smartphone on your way to work or when you’re out with friends,” he says.

Not only could i-voting trivialise the process, he says, there may also be security concerns – not just over voter fraud, but also ballot secrecy. Would some people be scared to vote knowing it might not be 100% secret, he wonders.

Stephen Schneider, professor in security for the department of computer science at the University of Surrey, says the success of Estonia’s system lies in the fact it was built from the ground up, supported by a solid infrastructure including the digital identification system.

“Their digital ID cards underpin the whole thing,” Prof Schneider says. “Without it, it would be like building [a voting system] on sand.”

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Electronic ballot boxes in polling booths were used for the first time in Mexico in 2009

To make i-voting work in the UK, several changes would be needed, including introducing electronic ID cards.

The technical ability for digital identification is certainly already here. One company is even trialling smartphone-based selfies for voter authentication.

The real risk

However, Prof Schneider says the necessary changes pose more of a societal challenge, as many people are uncomfortable with registering personal data, such as with ID cards.

Prof Schneider says the main security threat to online voting would be from malware on personal computers, which could potentially change votes cast via the internet.

Similarly, the use of internet-enabled voting machines in polling stations is “not really very secure”, he says. Many older machines, some used in the US, are “more easy to subvert”.

However, security software company Symantec says individual voters are not at any real risk, and it has not seen a single incident of external attackers interfering with voters.

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Symantec

Image caption

Symantec says hackers prefer to target political systems not individual voters

Symantec believes large-scale attackers – including state-sponsored hackers – prefer to target political systems more generally, for example, the cyber-attack on the US Democratic Party in 2016.

“State-sponsored attack groups are not interested in affecting individual voters. What they are interested in is affecting the outcome of these election events,” Dick O’Brien, threat researcher at Symantec says.

Politicians and political parties are the “low-hanging fruit” for attackers, he says, because of the often chaotic nature of communications within these organisations.

And with a number of elections coming up across Europe, he says, it is not the individual voter who must remain vigilant, but politicians and political parties.

BA flight disruption at Heathrow set for third day

Passengers at Heathrow Terminal 5 on 28 May 2017Image copyright
Getty Images

British Airways passengers are facing a third day of disruption at Heathrow as the airline deals with the impact of a worldwide computer system crash.

BA says it aims to operate a full long-haul schedule and a “high proportion” of short-haul services after the outage caused by a power failure.

It says passengers should check the status of flights before travelling.

Cancellations and delays affected thousands of passengers at both Heathrow and Gatwick on Saturday.

All flights operated from Gatwick on Sunday but more than a third of services from Heathrow – mostly to short-haul destinations – were cancelled.

In a statement, BA said its IT systems were moving “closer to full operational capacity”.

“We continue to make good progress in rebuilding our operation, following Saturday’s major IT systems failure which severely affected our operations worldwide,” it added.

“At Heathrow, we have operated virtually all our scheduled long-haul flights, though the knock-on effects of Saturday’s disruption resulted in a reduced short-haul programme.

“We apologise again to customers for the frustration and inconvenience they are experiencing and thank them for their continued patience.”

Yoga mats

BA is liable to reimburse thousands of passengers for refreshments and hotel expenses, and travel industry commentators have suggested the cost to the company – part of Europe’s largest airline group IAG – could run in to tens of millions of pounds.

Customers displaced by flight cancellations can claim up to £200 a day for a room (based on two people sharing), £50 for transport between the hotel and airport, and £25 a day per adult for meals and refreshments.

On Saturday night, travellers spent the night sleeping on terminal floors at Heathrow on yoga mats provided by BA.

The disruption continued into Sunday, with queues building up as passengers tried to rebook flights. Conference rooms at the airport were opened to provide somewhere more comfortable for passengers to rest.

BA said Heathrow was still expected to be congested on Monday and urged travellers not to go to the airport unless they had a confirmed booking for a flight that was operating.

It said passengers could get a full refund or rebook to travel up to the end of November but recommend they use its website.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Queues built up on Sunday at Heathrow Terminal 5 as passengers waited to speak to BA staff

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Getty Images

Thousands of bags remain at Heathrow Airport, but BA has advised passengers not to return to collect them, saying they will be couriered to customers.

The airline said there was no evidence the computer failure was the result of a cyber attack. It denied claims by the GMB union that problem could be linked to the company outsourcing its IT work.

Gatwick Airport said it was continuing to advise customers travelling with British Airways to check the status of their flight with the airline before travelling to the airport.


EU flight delay rights

  • If your flight departed the European Union or was with a European airline, you might have rights under EU law to claim if the delay or cancellation was within the airline’s control
  • Short-haul flights: 250 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Medium-haul flights: 400 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Long-haul flights: 300 euros for delays of between three and four hours; and 600 euros for delays of more than four hours
  • If your flight’s delayed for two or more hours the airline must offer food and drink, access to phone calls and emails, and accommodation if you’re delayed overnight – including transfers between the airport and the hotel

BA aims to resume most UK flights after IT failure

Passenger at Gatwick on SaturdayImage copyright
Reuters

British Airways says it is aiming to run a “near normal schedule” at Gatwick and the “majority of services” from Heathrow on Sunday after a “major” IT failure saw all flights cancelled.

Serious problems with BA’s systems led to thousands of passengers having their plans disrupted on Saturday.

Passengers described “chaotic” scenes at the airports, with some criticising BA for a lack of information.

The airline apologised and said it was refunding and rebooking customers.

BA advised customers to continue checking the status of their flight on its website www.ba.com before travelling to the airport.

The airline said there was no evidence the computer problems were the result of a cyber attack.

The company’s chief executive Alex Cruz had said it was believed “the root cause was a power supply issue”.

Other airlines flying in and out of the two airports were unaffected.

The IT failure had affected check-in and operational systems, including customer service phone lines.

BA said although some of its IT systems have returned, “there will be some knock-on disruption to our schedules as aircraft and crews are out of position around the world.

“We are repositioning some aircraft during the night to enable us to operate as much of our schedule as possible throughout Sunday.”

A BA spokesman added: “We are continuing to work hard to restore all of our IT systems…

“We are extremely sorry for the huge disruption caused to customers throughout Saturday and understand how frustrating their experiences will have been.

“We are refunding or rebooking customers who suffered cancellations on to new services as quickly as possible and have also introduced more flexible rebooking policies for anyone due to travel on Sunday and Monday who no longer wishes to fly to/from Heathrow or Gatwick.”

Delayed luggage

Earlier, the airline said most long-haul flights due to land in London on Sunday were expected to arrive as normal.

The GMB union had suggested the failure could have been avoided, had the airline not outsourced its IT work.

BA denied the claim, saying: “We would never compromise the integrity and security of our IT systems”.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Passengers were left stranded outside Heathrow Terminal 5 on Saturday as a result of the IT failure

Aviation expert Julian Bray told the BBC the IT failure had an impact on planes taking off, as well as baggage systems, and staff access to computers.

“This is a very serious problem, they should have been able to switch to an alternative system – surely British Airways should be able to do this,” he said.

BA aircraft landing at Heathrow had also been unable to park as outbound aircraft could not vacate the gates, which resulted in passengers being stuck on aircraft.

Delays were also reported in Rome, Prague, Milan, Stockholm and Malaga due to the system failure, which coincided with a bank holiday weekend and the start of the half-term holiday for many people in the UK.

Some passengers reported having to leave Heathrow without their luggage on Saturday.

BA confirmed the IT failure had led to a “significant number” of bags being left at the airport. It urged passengers not to return to collect their luggage, saying it would be returned to them via courier free of charge.


EU flight delay rights

Image copyright
Getty Images

  • If your flight departed the European Union or was with a European airline, you might have rights under EU law to claim if the delay or cancellation was within the airline’s control
  • Short-haul flights: 250 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Medium-haul flights: 400 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Long-haul flights: 300 euros for delays of between three and four hours; and 600 euros for delays of more than four hours
  • If your flight’s delayed for two or more hours the airline must offer food and drink, access to phone calls and emails, and accommodation if you’re delayed overnight – including transfers between the airport and the hotel

Theresa May: Online extremism ‘must be tackled’

Leaders line up for photo at G7 summitImage copyright
Reuters

Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to combat online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is “moving from the battlefield to the internet”.

At the G7 summit in Sicily, the PM said tech companies had to do more to identify and remove extreme material.

She also urged more action on tackling foreign fighters who travel to join IS.

Meanwhile, UK police have arrested another man in connection with Monday’s terror attack in Manchester.

Twenty-two people were killed and 116 injured when a suicide bomber targeted an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena on Monday evening.

Corbyn links terror threat to wars abroad

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said Mrs May had met the French president Emmanuel Macron at the summit and both agreed that the recent attacks in Manchester and Paris showed the need for greater cooperation.

Mrs May warned that fighters returning to their home countries from countries like Iraq and Syria posed a new terrorist threat and urged G7 members to work with “our partners in the region to step up returns and prosecutions of foreign fighters.

“This means improving intelligence sharing, evidence gathering and bolstering countries’ police and legal processes,” she said.

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Getty Images

Image caption

The bombing at Manchester Arena on Monday night killed 22 people and injured 116

G7 members needed to be able to share data securely in order to track fighters as they cross borders and make decisions about whether to prosecute them, she said.

The PM also sought common ground on tackling online extremism as she chaired a counter-terrorism session at the summit in Italy, looking at how countries could work together to prevent online plotting of terrorist attacks and to stop the spread of extremist ideology.

The prime minister argued that, as IS militants lose ground in the Middle East, the threat was “evolving rather than disappearing” and that the industry had a “social responsibility” to do more to take down harmful content, arguing it had taken some action but had not gone far enough.

‘Lift the lid’

She wants an international forum to develop the means of intervening where danger is detected, and for companies to develop tools which automatically identify and remove harmful material based on what it contains and who posted it.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed France’s total support for Britain’s fight against terrorism as he met Mrs May at the summit.

“We will be here to cooperate and do everything we can in order to increase this cooperation at the European level, in order to do more from a bilateral point of view against terrorism,” he told her, in their first formal meeting since he took office.

Security minister Ben Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the use of online communications was “one of the biggest challenges” in the fight against terrorism, with encryption making it “almost impossible for us to actually lift the lid on these people”.

“And the scale of it is not just the UK, it is across the whole of Europe, across the world.”

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AFP

He said the giant American tech companies like Facebook and Google could be doing more.

“We are determined to not let these people off the hook with the responsibility they have in broadcasting some horrendous [material], not only manuals about how to make bombs, but also grooming materials,” he said.

“We all think they could all do more… we need to have the tools to make them, where we need to, remove material quicker.”

Google said it was committed to creating an international forum designed to tackle extreme content online, to make sure “terrorists do not have a voice online”.

“We employ thousands of people and invest hundreds of millions of pounds to fight abuse on our platforms, and will continue investing and adapting to ensure we are part of the solution to addressing these challenges,” it added.

Get news from the BBC in your inbox, each weekday morning

Google plans to track credit card spending

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Getty Images

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Google can use location data to close the gap between the physical and digital worlds although users can block this

Google is planning to track billions of credit and debit card sales to compare online ad clicks with money spent offline.

The company will allow advertisers to see whether online ad campaigns generate offline sales.

Announcing the service, Google said that it captures around 70% of credit and debit card transactions in the US.

Critics said it represented another blow to privacy.

Google also announced a separate monitoring product in a blogpost, saying: “For the first time, Google Attribution makes it possible for every marketer to measure the impact of their marketing across devices and cross-channel – all in one place.”

The company has vast amounts of data on net users, from services such as AdWords, Google Analytics and DoubleClick Search which combine details about the ads displayed on devices with what has been searched for in Google.

Google can also collect location information from phones, allowing it to work out when a user has seen an ad, and whether they have searched for the product advertised and gone to an offline shop to buy it.

Privacy concerns

It introduced store visit measurements back in 2014, using the location data on mobiles to track when people visited a store.

“In under three years, advertisers globally have measured over five billion store visits,” it said.

It added that Google’s “third-party partnerships” already capture approximately 70% of credit and debit card transactions in the US, but did not reveal who the partners were or how information was captured.

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Thinkstock

Image caption

The service would likely hit barriers if it was rolled out in Europe, privacy campaigners say

Google will not have access to the details about what individuals spend – instead they learn the value of all purchases in a certain time period.

“While we developed the concept for this product years ago, it required years of effort to develop a solution that could meet our stringent user privacy requirements,” a spokesman said.

“To accomplish this, we developed a new, custom encryption technology that ensures users’ data remains private, secure, and anonymous.”

“What’s really fascinating to me is that as the companies become increasingly intrusive in terms of their data collection, they also become more secretive,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told the Washington Post.

The measurement of store sales will be aggregated and anonymised and no location data will be shared with advertisers.

‘Creepy’ adverts

Users can opt out of the service by going to their ads setting page and unchecking the box that says: “Also use Google Account activity and information to personalise ads on these websites and apps and store that data in your Google Account”.

Users can also disable personalisation for all Google ads. And they can pause or delete their location history.

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Getty Images

Image caption

The company has vast amounts of data from its users

The service is currently limited to the US – and would likely hit barriers if it was rolled out in Europe, privacy campaigners say.

The upcoming General Data Protection Regulation aims to tighten the ways online firms use and collect data and will require online firms to get explicit consent from consumers about data use.

“The one thing people regularly state as ‘creepy’ online is when an advert follows them around the internet. These plans appear to extend ‘creepy’ into the physical world,” said Renate Samson from Big Brother Watch.

“If people want to avoid having their shopping habits monitored on the high street by Google, by shops or by banks they should restrict the amount of data they hand over.

“Companies track and monitor in order to advertise to us. If we don’t want them to do that, take control; don’t give your email address for a digital receipt, check the terms and conditions, avoid using loyalty cards and where possible choose to pay with cash.”

Robot police officer goes on duty in Dubai

Robot officer with Dubai Police's Brigadier Al RazooqiImage copyright
Dubai Media Office

Dubai Police have revealed their first robot officer, giving it the task of patrolling the city’s malls and tourist attractions.

People will be able to use it to report crimes, pay fines and get information by tapping a touchscreen on its chest.

Data collected by the robot will also be shared with the transport and traffic authorities.

The government said the aim was for 25% of the force to be robotic by 2030 but they would not replace humans.

“We are not going to replace our police officers with this tool,” said Brig Khalid Al Razooqi, director general of smart services at Dubai Police.

“But with the number of people in Dubai increasing, we want to relocate police officers so they work in the right areas and can concentrate on providing a safe city.

Multi-lingual robot

“Most people visit police stations or customer service, but with this tool we can reach the public 24/7.

“It can protect people from crime because it can broadcast what is happening right away to our command and control centre.”

The robot, a customised Reem model from Pal Robotics, was unveiled at the Gulf Information and Security Expo and Conference on Sunday.

At present it can communicate only in Arabic and English, but there are plans to add Russian, Chinese, French and Spanish to its repertoire.

A second Reem robot could join it on patrol next year depending on funding, the government in Dubai said.

Just A Baby app matches hopeful parents

A new dating app lets people search for sperm and egg donors, surrogate mothers and lovers.

The makers of Just A Baby say anybody who wants to have a child can sign up, and hope it will be useful for single people, same-sex couples or people who have not had a child but want one.

But some organisations have criticised the app.

The BBC’s Zoe Kleinman reports.

How Cuba’s growing internet is fuelling new businesses

Cubazon founder Bernardo Romero GonzalezImage copyright
Noam Galai/Getty

Image caption

Cubazon’s Bernardo Romero Gonzalez is counting on the Cuban diaspora to help grow his business

As the internet becomes more widespread in Cuba, online start-ups are emerging. But the problems many of the companies hope to address are also a reminder of how far the island has to go.

Bernardo Romero Gonzalez, a 33-year-old software engineer from Cuba, launched his new business this month: a website where people can order island-made products such as soap, bouquets of flowers and cakes for home delivery.

“It’s like Amazon for Cuba, but with a difference,” he told an audience of New York techies at a conference this month.

The summary was a classic start-up pitch, but it also underscored the obstacles when it comes to starting an online business in the Caribbean country.

Mr Gonzalez is counting on buyers from the Cuban diaspora, which already plays a role in the economy, sending money and other products to the island.

But the infrastructure doesn’t exist for domestic buyers to sustain the market.

Growing internet

Internet access among Cuba’s 11.2 million people is growing.

Between 2013 and 2015, the share of the Cuban population using the internet jumped from about a quarter to more than 35%, according to estimates from the International Telecommunications Union.

The growing market has helped draw the attention of internet giants, such as Airbnb, Netflix and Google, which installed servers on the island and started hosting data there last month.

The rise is also fuelling activity among local entrepreneurs, who are launching domestic versions of sites such as the crowd-review business directory Yelp.

But there’s a long way to go.

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ADALBERTO ROQUE/Getty

Image caption

Public wi-fi hotspots remain the primary way for Cubans to access the internet

‘Third world conditions’

Less than 6% of Cuban households had internet access at home in 2015, one of the lowest rates in the western hemisphere, according to the ITU. (In the UK, that figure tops 91%.)

Wi-fi hotspots in parks and other public places operated by the state-run telecom company remain the primary way to log on.

Service at the hotspots is often slow, expensive and selective, with the government restricting access to the full range of internet sites.

The constraints are shaping the emerging Cuban start-ups.

At this month’s TechCrunch conference in New York, Mr Gonzalez shared a stage with Kewelta, a firm focusing on advertising within decentralised online and offline networks, and Knales, which provides updates on weather, news and other events via text messages and phone calls.

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Noam Galai/Getty

Image caption

Knales co-founder Diana Elianne Benitez Perera called Cubans ‘disrupters by definition’

Knales co-founder Diana Elianne Benitez Perera told the audience that “Cubans are disrupters by definition. We always find the way to have first world conditions with third world conditions.”

‘Change in the air’

The government in recent years has taken some steps to boost internet access, increasing wi-fi hotspots in parks and other places, lowering prices and experimenting with home installations.

The measures come amid broader economic changes in Cuba, after the Castro regime loosened rules for private enterprise and the Obama administration eased the US embargo, unleashing large numbers of US travellers.

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ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty

Image caption

US travel to Cuba has increased since the Obama administration eased the US embargo

The Cuba Emprende Foundation started working with the Catholic Church in Cuba about five years ago as the reforms started, funding four-week courses in entrepreneurship from which more than 3,000 people have graduated.

The Foundation helped organise the 10x10KCuba start-up competition in which both Diana and Bernardo participated last year, that led to the invitation to the Tech Crunch conference in New York in May.

“There’s change in the air,” says Anna Maria Alejo, one of the people who helped organise the TechCrunch panel and helped raise about $10,000 (£7,700) to pay for eight entrepreneurs to attend the conference.

“We’re not exactly sure where things will go, but there’s a lot of optimism among these young people,” she says.

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Noam Galai/Getty

Image caption

Three start-ups participated in a panel at the TechCrunch conference in New York in May

‘Workarounds’

Cuba has a relatively high number of well-trained software engineers, especially for a country with its size and degree of internet access, said Kirk Laughlin, managing director of NearShore Americas.

The media advisory company published a report in 2015 that highlighted the island’s potential as a hub for cheap IT labour.

But Mr Laughlin says he’s been disappointed by how slowly the Cuban government has moved to improve the broadband network, especially given interest from international companies and numbers of educated Cubans opting to leave and take their chances elsewhere.

“There is such an opportunity to leapfrog ahead and really light up the island with really robust broadband. That is just not happening,” he says.

“When it comes to online start-ups, there’s a lot of workarounds”.

“That’s great that people have the ingenuity and creativity and in some ways we should applaud that,” he says.

“But it’s still a long way to go to get into the league that Cuba has great qualifications to participate in.”

‘The companies are waiting’

Some say the changes could accelerate after Raul Castro retires next year.

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PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty

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Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez is expected to succeed Raul Castro in Cuba

In speeches, Mr Castro’s presumed successor, vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel, has indicated a more open attitude, said Larry Press, a professor emeritus at California State University Dominguez Hills, who has researched the internet in the developing world and writes a blog on Cuba.

Mr Press said media recently praised Revolico, a Craigslist-like site that was blocked by the government after its launch in 2007. More recently, it has been celebrated and has inspired competitors.

But those steps aside, a lot of work remains, he says.

“Those indicate a change of attitude, not a giant change of reality.”

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YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty

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Less than 6% of Cuban households are estimated to have internet access at home

Mr Gonzalez, who has also started computer repair and web development businesses, said he thinks the moment for Cubazon is now, while shipping to Cuba from the US remains limited.

He and the staff from his current business are working to sign up more businesses to sell their wares on Cubazon.

Many of the people he’s talking to don’t have an online presence, he says, but can see the possibility: “The companies are waiting for us.”

Still, he adds, his primary focus for the moment is a basic one: “My goal currently is working.”

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FCC votes to overturn net neutrality rules

Ajit PaiImage copyright
Reuters

Image caption

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said existing rules hampered the growth of the tech sector

The US Federal Communications Commission has voted to overturn rules that force ISPs to treat all data traffic as equal.

Commissioners at the agency voted two-to-one to end a “net neutrality” order enacted in 2015.

Ajit Pai, head of the FCC, said the rules demanding an open internet harmed jobs and discouraged investment.

Many Americans and technology firms filed objections to the FCC’s proposal prior to the vote.

“This is the right way to go,” said Mr Pai ahead of the vote on Thursday.

In a statement, the FCC said it expected its proposed changes to “substantially benefit consumers and the marketplace”. It added that, before the rules were changed in 2015, they helped to preserve a “flourishing free and open internet for almost 20 years”.

Equal access

The vote by the FCC commissioners is the first stage in the process of dismantling the net neutrality regulations.

The agency is now inviting public comment on whether it should indeed dismantle the rules. Americans have until mid-August to share their views with the FCC.

This call for comments is likely to attract a huge number of responses. Prior to the vote, more than 1 million statements supporting net neutrality were filed on the FCC site.

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Getty Images

Image caption

John Oliver urged his viewers to post comments to the FCC, opposing the reversal of net neutrality rules

Many people responded to a call from comedian and commentator John Oliver to make their feelings known.

Separately, some protestors also used software bots to repeatedly file statements on the site.

Many fear that once the equal access rules go, ISPs will start blocking and throttling some data while letting other packets travel on “fast lanes” because firms have paid more to reach customers quicker.

US ISPs such as Comcast, Charter Communications and Altice NV have pledged in public statements to keep data flowing freely.

Despite this public pledge Comcast, along with Verizon and AT&T, opposed the original 2015 rule change saying it dented their enthusiasm for improving US broadband.

Facebook, and Google’s parent company Alphabet as well as many other net firms have backed the open net rules saying equal access was important for all.

Text-to-switch plan for mobile users

Mobile phoneImage copyright
PA

Mobile phone users will be able to switch operators by sending a text to the provider they want to leave, under plans drawn up by the regulator.

Ofcom said customers could avoid an awkward and long call to their operator and instead send a text. In turn, they will be sent switching codes.

The proposal means Ofcom’s previously preferred option – a more simple one-stage process – is being dropped.

That system was more expensive and could have raised bills, it said.

The change of preferred plan marks a victory for mobile operators who would have faced higher costs under the alternative system. Ofcom said its research suggested customers would also prefer the new planned system.

At present, anyone who wishes to switch to a different mobile provider must contact their current supplier to tell them they are leaving.

Ofcom research suggests that, of those who have switched, some 38% have been hit by one major problem during the process. One in five of them temporarily lost their service, while one in 10 had difficulties contacting their current supplier or keeping their phone number.

Under previous plans, Ofcom wanted responsibility for the switch being placed entirely in the hands of the new provider. That would mean one call to a new provider by the customer.

Non-switchers

The regulator has now concluded that such a system would be twice as expensive as its newly-preferred option of texting to switch.

They would text, then receive a text back, which includes a unique code to pass on to their new provider who could arrange the switch within one working day. Customers would be able to follow this process whether they were taking their mobile number with them or not.

Under the proposed rules, mobile providers would be banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. That would mean customers would no longer have to pay for their old and new service at the same time after they have switched.

A final decision will be made in the autumn.

Latest figures published last year showed that there were an estimated 47 million mobile phone contracts in the UK, and approximately 5.9 million people had never switched provider at all, nor considered switching in the previous year.

General election 2017: Illegal content sanctions threat

Theresa MayImage copyright
AFP

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The Conservative manifesto proposes a so-called ‘Twitter tax’

Online companies could face fines or prosecution if they fail to remove illegal content, under Conservative plans for stricter internet regulation.

The party has also proposed an industry-wide levy, dubbed a “Twitter tax”, to fund “preventative activity to counter internet harms”.

Labour said it had “pressed for tough new codes” in the past but the government had “categorically refused”.

The Liberal Democrats said more needed to be done “to find a real solution”.

Voluntary contributions

The Conservatives said the levy, proposed in their election manifesto, would use the same model as that used in the gambling industry, where companies voluntarily contribute to the charity GambleAware to help pay for education, research, and treating gambling addiction.

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AFP

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Labour says it wants to protect young people from online bullying

All social media and communications service providers would be given a set period to come up with plans to fund and promote efforts “to counter internet harms”.

If they failed to do so, the government would have the power to impose an industry-wide toll.

The Conservatives say the exact details, including how long the industry will be given to comply and the size of the levy, will be consulted upon.

A Labour spokesman said: “If the Tories are planning to levy a new tax on social media companies, they need to set out how it will work, who it will affect and what it will raise.

‘Sanctions regime’

“Labour has pushed for a code of practice about the responsibilities of social media companies to protect children and young people from abuse and bullying.”

The Conservatives have also pledged to introduce “a sanctions regime” that would give regulators “the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law”.

Social media platforms and internet service providers would have clearer responsibilities regarding the reporting and removal of harmful material, including bullying, inappropriate or illegal content, and would have to take down material.

“It is certainly bold of the Conservatives to boast that they can protect people on the internet,” Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said.

“Government and technology companies must do more to find a real solution to problematic content online.”

And Labour’s digital economy spokeswoman Louise Haigh said: “The Home Office were crystal clear they did not want to legislate and that they believed the voluntary framework was sufficient.

“The fact is that in government the Tories have been too afraid to stand up to the social media giants and keep the public safe from illegal and extremist content.”

Watch Mark Zuckerberg find out he’s got into Harvard

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has posted a video showing the moment he found out he got into Harvard, as filmed by his dad, Edward, about 15 years ago.

Zuckerberg actually dropped out to found what is now the biggest social network on the planet – but he’s due to pick up an honorary degree at Harvard next week.

He also wrote on his profile: “Before I went to college, my mom bet me I’d drop out and my younger sister bet me she’d finish college before me. I bet them I’d get a degree. Now I suppose the cycle is complete.”

Video produced by Dave Lee

DocuSign users sent phishing emails after data breach

Fishing hook on a computer keyboardImage copyright
Getty Images

Electronic signature service provider DocuSign has admitted customer emails were accessed in a data breach.

The addresses were then targeted in a series of phishing emails from “a malicious third party”.

The messages invited recipients to click on a link to a Microsoft Word document containing malware.

DocuSign says that no other information was accessed in the incident, and the e-signature service remained secure.

“No names, physical addresses, passwords, social security numbers, credit card data or other information was accessed,” the company said in a statement.

“DocuSign’s core e-signature service, envelopes and customer documents and data remain secure.”

The company has advised people to delete any suspicious messages immediately.

‘Temporary access’

The breach came to light when the company noticed an increase in phishing emails sent to some of their account holders last week.

According to a statement published on DocuSign’s website, “a malicious third party gained temporary access to a separate, non-core system that allows us to communicate service-related announcements to users via email”.

The emails included the DocuSign branding and appeared to come from addresses ending “docus.com”, a lookalike domain.

The subject line referred to either a wire transfer or an accounting invoice, saying: “Document Ready for Signature”.

A full copy of the email has been published on the TechHelpList website, which reported that the malware contained in the attachment could be used to steal passwords and banking credentials.

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TechHelpList

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DocuSign users received emails asking them to review and sign a document

“Phishing is almost the default way of tricking people into giving away that information,” Keith Martin, professor of information security at Royal Holloway, University of London, told the BBC.

“Where it’s targeting a bank, for example, the senders are going to use headers and language that’ll make customers believe it’s their bank.

“With a generic phishing trawl, the message will go out and the more people who click the better – it’s literally like fishing, hoping to get some bites, chucking a message out there speculatively.

“With most, you don’t need a very high success rate to make money.”

HPE unveils ‘world’s largest’ single memory computer

The MachineImage copyright
HPE

A prototype computer with 160TB of memory has been unveiled by Hewlett Packard Enterprises.

Designed to work on big data, it could analyse the equivalent of 160 million books at the same time, HPE said.

The device, called The Machine, had a Linux-based operating system and prioritised memory rather than processing power, the company said.

HPE said its Memory Driven Computing research project could eventually lead to a “near-limitless” memory pool.

“The secrets to the next great scientific breakthrough, industry-changing innovation or life-altering technology hide in plain sight behind the mountains of data we create every day,” said HPE boss Meg Whitman.

“To realise this promise, we can’t rely on the technologies of the past, we need a computer built for the big data era.”

Prof Les Carr, of the University of Southampton, told the BBC The Machine would be fast but big data faced other challenges.

“The ultimate way to speed things up is to make sure you have all the data present in your computer as close to the processing as possible so this is a different way of trying to speed things up,” he said.

“However, we need to make our processing… not just faster but more insightful and business relevant.”

“There are many areas in life where quicker is not necessarily better.”

Can knowing your genetic make-up lead to a healthier life?

Mandy Mayer runningImage copyright
Mandy Mayer

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Mandy Mayer, 56, thinks DNA-testing has helped her drop two dress sizes

The latest health and fitness trend involves taking a DNA test to find out more about how our bodies respond to different types of food and exercise. But how accurate and effective are these kits?

Fitness fanatic Mandy Mayer, 56, exercised several times a week but felt like she’d hit a plateau.

Her personal trainer suggested she try a DNAFit test, which tests the body’s genetic response to key foods and exercise.

“I jumped at the chance,” she says. “I thought I’d love to have that kind of knowledge.”

After sending off a swab of her saliva, she received a report on her fitness and diet in January. She was impressed.

“I was like ‘wow’. They told me I don’t tolerate caffeine and refined foods very well, and I respond better to endurance training than anything else.”

Three months later and she has dropped from a size 12 to a size 10 and lost several kilos. She attributes her leaner figure to understanding more about her genetic code.

“Without a shadow of a doubt it was down to the test,” says Mandy, who lives in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

“It’s made me follow the right training and make little changes to my diet.”

A growing number of start-ups, such as 23andMe, FitnessGenes, UBiome, DNAFit, Orig3n and Habit, are moving into this space, promising that mail-order genetic tests can change your life for the better.

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Orig3n

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Orig3n is one of a growing number of start-ups entering the DNA-testing market

Some researchers believe the global market for such kits could be worth more than $10bn (£7.7bn) by 2022.

But how do they work and how reliable are they?

Avi Lasarow, chief executive of DNAFit, explains that everything about who we are is the unique combination of what we are born with – our genetics – and how we live – our environment.

“The biggest ‘environment’ factor that we can control in our day-to-day lives is our diet,” he says, “so by understanding more about the static part, the genetics, we can better tweak the bit in our control.”

He gives the example of the CYP1A2 gene, which controls around 95% of caffeine metabolism.

“Some people are fast metabolisers, some are slow, depending on their variants of this gene. Once you know this, however, you can make a better informed decision on your caffeine intake than you could without your genetic data.”

Robin Smith, chief executive of Orig3n, which offers a range of health and wellness DNA tests costing from $29 to $149, says the results can help people make educated choices about what works for their bodies.

“If a person’s DNA suggests that she is more likely to be deficient in B vitamins, she can pay attention to that in her daily life.

“Knowing what your DNA says about your body’s food sensitivities, food breakdown, hunger, weight, vitamins, allows you to become a more informed consumer.

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DNAFit

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DNAFit says its kits can tell us what type of exercise we should be doing

“You can become smarter about what you choose to eat, and smarter about what supplements you choose to buy, saving you time, energy, and money while getting the results you want faster.”

So much for the sales pitch, but some genetic experts are concerned that the efficacy of such kits may be overhyped.

“I’m not against people being able to access genetic information about themselves if they wish to do so, provided the test results and limitations are clearly explained,” says Dr Jess Buxton, a geneticist at University College London.

“However, I do think that the amount of useful information that personalised health tests can offer is very limited at present because we still know very little about the effect of most SNPs [genetic variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms] and other types of genetic variation on a person’s health.”

While there are a few conditions, such as lactose intolerance, for which the genetic variations are very clear and well understood, the same cannot be said for most other conditions, she says.

“These [genetic variations] interact with each other and with non-genetic factors in ways that we don’t fully understand, so it’s impossible to make accurate predictions based on information about just a few of the gene variants involved, as many of these tests do.”

That said, some studies do suggest that this kind of analysis might work. For example, the University of Trieste and the IRCCS Burlo Garofolo Institute for Maternal and Child Health in Italy found that those following diet based on genetic analysis lost 33% more weight than a controlled group.

Some start-ups are not just relying on a person’s genetic make-up to make their diet and exercise recommendations.

San Francisco-based Habit’s home kit includes a series of DNA samples, blood tests and a shake to drink so that the company can measure how your body metabolises fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

“Unlike other at-home tests that measure DNA alone, Habit looks at how the entire body works together,” explains founder and chief executive Neil Grimmer.

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Thierry Attias

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Thierry Attias found out that he needed to eat far more vegetables to lose weight

Habit, he says, measures more than 60 nutrition-related blood and genetic biomarkers, biometrics and lifestyle choices, to make personalised nutrition recommendations for each individual.

“Personalised recommendations should be based on your entire biology, not just your DNA,” says Mr Grimmer.

One early adopter is Thierry Attias, president of Momentum Sports Group, a firm managing the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team.

“Even though I cycle a few times a week, I carry an extra couple of pounds and I was curious to learn more about myself,” says Mr Attias, who lives in Oakland, California.

He discovered that he’s caffeine sensitive, his diet needs to include more plant-based food, and his body is slow at processing fats.

While Habit was still in testing phase, he opted to receive personalised ready-to-eat meals from the company for three days.

“An interesting thing happened,” he enthuses. “I lost four pounds in a few days. I learnt portion size and how much more veg I needed in a serving.”

In two months he has lost about 11 pounds (5kg), he says.

But do we really need a testing kit to tell as to eat more vegetables and fewer fats as part of a healthy balanced diet – advice that has been around for decades?

You decide.

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

Ransomware cyber-attack a wake-up call, Microsoft warns

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Media captionHow to protect yourself online

Cyber-attacks that have hit 150 countries since Friday should be treated by governments around the world as a “wake-up call”, Microsoft says.

The computing giant said software vulnerabilities hoarded by governments have caused “widespread damage”.

The latest virus exploits a flaw in Microsoft Windows first identified by US intelligence.

There are fears of further “ransomware” attacks as people return to work on Monday.

Many firms have had experts work over the weekend to prevent new infections. The virus took control of users’ files, demanding payments to restore access.

The spread of the virus slowed over the weekend but the respite might only be brief, experts have warned. More than 200,000 computers have been affected so far.

A statement released by Microsoft on Sunday criticised the way governments store up information about security flaws in computer systems.

“We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world.

“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”

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Media captionFirms must patch their systems before Monday morning, Europol chief warns

It added: “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call.”

Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but many users were yet to run it.

“As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems,” the company said.

Temporary fix

Meanwhile Europol’s chief told the BBC that that the ransomware was designed to allow “infection of one computer to quickly spread across the networks”, adding: “That’s why we’re seeing these numbers increasing all the time.”

Although a temporary fix earlier slowed the infection rate, the attackers had now released a new version of the virus, he said.

A UK security researcher known as “MalwareTech”, who helped to limit the ransomware attack, predicted “another one coming… quite likely on Monday”.

MalwareTech, who wants to remain anonymous, was hailed as an “accidental hero” after registering a domain name to track the spread of the virus, which actually ended up halting it.

Becky Pinkard, from Digital Shadows, a UK-based cyber-security firm, told AFP news agency that it would be easy for the initial attackers or “copy-cat authors” to change the virus code so it is difficult to guard against.

“Even if a fresh attack does not materialise on Monday, we should expect it soon afterwards,” she said.

In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts reported problems at hospitals, doctor surgeries or pharmacies, and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were also affected.

Other organisations targeted worldwide included Germany’s rail network Deutsche Bahn, Spanish telecommunications operator Telefonica, French carmaker Renault, US logistics giant FedEx and Russia’s Interior Ministry.

Global cyber-attack: Security blogger halts ransomware ‘by accident’

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Media captionLISTEN: How ‘Malware Tech’ became an ‘accidental hero’

A UK security researcher has told the BBC how he “accidentally” halted the spread of the malicious ransomware that has affected hundreds of organisations, including the UK’s NHS.

The 22-year-old man, known by the pseudonym MalwareTech, had taken a week off work, but decided to investigate the ransomware after hearing about the global cyber-attack.

He managed to bring the spread to a halt when he found what appeared to be a “kill switch” in the rogue software’s code.

“It was actually partly accidental,” he told the BBC, after spending the night investigating. “I have not slept a wink.”

Although his discovery did not repair the damage done by the ransomware, it did stop it spreading to new computers, and he has been hailed an “accidental hero”.

“I would say that’s correct,” he told the BBC.

Cyber-attack scale ‘unprecedented’

NHS ‘robust’ after cyber-attack

“The attention has been slightly overwhelming. The boss gave me another week off to make up for this train-wreck of a vacation.”

What exactly did he discover?

The researcher first noticed that the malware was trying to contact a specific web address every time it infected a new computer.

But the web address it was trying to contact – a long jumble of letters – had not been registered.

MalwareTech decided to register it, and bought it for $10.69 (£8). Owning it would let him see where computers were accessing it from, and give him an idea of how widespread the ransomware was.

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MalwareTech

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Owning the web address let MalwareTech monitor where infections were happening

By doing so, he unexpectedly triggered part of the ransomware’s code that told it to stop spreading.

Analysis: How did it start?

What is the ransomware?

This type of code is known as a “kill switch”, which some attackers use to halt the spread of their software if things get out of hand.

He tested his discovery and was delighted when he managed to trigger the ransomware on demand.

“Now you probably can’t picture a grown man jumping around with the excitement of having just been ‘ransomwared’, but this was me,” he said in a blog post.

MalwareTech now thinks the code was originally designed to thwart researchers trying to investigate the ransomware, but it backfired by letting them remotely disable it.

Does this mean the ransomware is defeated?

While the registration of the web address appears to have stopped one strain of the ransomware spreading from device-to-device, it does not repair computers that are already infected.

Security experts have also warned that new variants of the malware that ignore the “kill switch” will appear.

“This variant shouldn’t be spreading any further, however there’ll almost certainly be copycats,” said security researcher Troy Hunt in a blog post.

MalwareTech warned: “We have stopped this one, but there will be another one coming and it will not be stoppable by us.

“There’s a lot of money in this, there is no reason for them to stop. It’s not much effort for them to change the code and start over.”