Hiding out among the net's criminal class

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Researchers assume many different identities as they monitor underground forums

Security researcher Liam O’Murchu lives a double life. And sometimes a triple life. Now and then he divides himself even more thinly.

Living multiple lives is part of his job with security firm Symantec, which also involves being a covert part of the forums, chat boards and discussion rooms that comprise the net’s underground economy.

It is there that deals are done that lead to companies being hacked, websites knocked offline and booby-trapped emails spammed out to millions. Exploit kits are bought and sold, allowing less proficient attackers to pay their better-skilled brethren for access to tools that make it simple to hunt out and infect vulnerable victims,

“You can see what tools are being released, what people are interested in, how they are making their money and maybe politically how they are motivated,” he said.

The monitoring encompasses all levels of cyber-crime – from sites that cater for beginners and unskilled “script kiddies” to the higher-level groups where the pro criminals gather.

It’s in these that Mr O’Murchu and his colleagues exchange banter with other members to gather information that can help when a big attack is under way or a novel threat hits lots of the PCs that Symantec is helping to protect.

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Dutch police infiltrated and then closed the Hansa web marketplace

For instance, he said, if 500,000 machines are enrolled overnight into a botnet – a network of hijacked PCs that can be used to spread spam or conduct other types of computer crime – he will dig into the incident and find out how they were caught out.

“If we discovered that it was distributed via spam, via web exploit packs and compromised websites, we might discover that those compromised websites were actually sold in the underground,” he explained.

“Then we’ll go and find out who is selling them, how you pay for them and how you sign up.”

The result might mean Symantec stops the malware spreading or develops defences that can guide customers to protect themselves.

Hiding out

Mr O’Murchu has seen many changes ripple through the underground in the years he has been immersed in it – many of them in response to action by law enforcement that took down sites or led to arrests.

A big change occurred last year, after Russian police arrested 50 people thought to be behind several large malware campaigns. It turned out, he said, that they also ran and sold an “exploit kit” that gave subscribers access to a large and growing library of software vulnerabilities that could be used to gain access to a lot of different companies.

“We believe that the businessman behind that group had been buying exploits to put into the packs,” he said.

The wave of arrests “spooked” the businessman backer, who promptly disappeared and took his wallet with him.

“That took a lot of the money out of the community, so now we don’t see so many exploit packs being used,” he said.

The packs still available sell to the professional criminals who pay up to $10,000 (£7,700) a month to get a steady stream of software bugs they can exploit for their own ends – be it to inveigle their way into a target organisation or to make malware even more effective.

Tracking the top cyber-criminals, by Andrei Barysevich

“We obtain access to the most secretive communities – the closed discussion groups that you will not be able to find through Google.

“When you get access you create one or more personas and assign criteria to them. You could be a hacker, a forger or a DDoS attacker. To build these personas takes time.

“We see when criminals get access to a company but not enough to gain valuable data and then go to the community and say: “I have got this far but need help to go further.”

“In a lot of cases we can get info for the victim to find out how the perpetrator got access and patch it before they get at the data.

“The legality can be a problem for anyone that’s not experienced. We know how to manipulate the mindset of the criminals to avoid this. It’s a lengthy process.

“Where the criminals make mistakes is when they are inexperienced, when they first enter the realm of cyber-crime and have little idea of operational security.

“Sometimes they use the same user name that’s connected with their Skype account, Facebook account or Russian VK pages.

“We have an extensive list of profiles where we outline the most valuable details about the most prolific actors. In some cases we can confirm who is behind a particular alias.”

Andrei Barysevich is director of advanced collection, Recorded Future

Backers with cash who bankroll development work by criminal hackers are increasingly common, said Mr O’Murchu.

“You essentially get start-up companies operating in these forums,” he said. “You have a financer come in and he would back some project and you would have 10-to-15 people working on that.”

“He would use that as a revenue generator,” he added. “They put people on the project and resell that on the underground at a profit. It’s just a matter of whether they can mark it up enough.”

Paranoia justified

Arrests of hackers and raids on well-known forums have driven a growing sense of paranoia among the inhabitants of the criminal underground, said Mr O’Murchu.

“The people in these forums understand that they are being watched and that what they talk about, if they talk about anything specific, will be tied back to them,” he said.

“The people who are doing this at the top level understand the stakes,” he said. “And they understand that the police can come busting through their door at any time, so they are really very, very careful about who they let in and who they talk to.”

Some of that paranoia is justified, he said, because security researchers and law enforcement officers watching the forums are just waiting for the bad guys to make a mistake.

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Security researchers work with police to profile people using online crime forums

Mr O’Murchu said one error, even if it was made years ago, could undo even the most careful hacker.

One gang was caught out after Symantec had been watching them for 18 months, he said. During that time Mr O’Murchu and colleagues had mapped where they connected from and the net addresses they used.

He said zeroing in on them was hard because they used only encrypted links or staging posts, known as proxies.

“Eventually, after hundreds of thousands of connections, we found maybe five where they had not used encryption or a proxy,” he said.

It was a small slip, but enough to reveal where they lived.

“From that we identified who they were and we provided that to law enforcement,” he said. Soon after, the gang was raided and broken up.

“Everyone makes mistakes.”

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

We will have further features and videos on Wednesday, and then coverage from the two Las Vegas-based events over the following days.

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Ransomware spike blamed on easy-to-use malware builders

Security experts say a sharp increase in ransomware attacks is in part a result of how easy the malware is to acquire.

Researchers at Cylance and AlienVault were able to find off-the-shelf ransomware using a normal search engine, which could then be used to lock victims’ computer files and blackmail them.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

We will have further features and videos on Wednesday, and then coverage from the two Las Vegas-based events over the following days.

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How facial recognition could replace train tickets

A facial recognition system designed to replace the need for tickets on trains is being tested in the UK.

An early version that uses two near-infrared lights to help a single camera determine texture and orientation of each pixel it captures was shown to BBC Click.

The system, being developed by the Bristol Robotics Lab, is being partly funded by government and the private sector.

Researchers told the programme that they believe it will successfully identify passengers without the need for them to stop walking and could replace ticket gates.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

Click’s full report on biometric security is on the BBC News Channel, BBC World News and on BBC iPlayer (Uk only) on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 July 2017 as part of the BBC’s ‘Cyberhacks’ season.

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How long until Ukraine is hacked again?

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Patients at one of Kiev’s biggest private medical clinics faced delays as a result of June’s cyber-attack

When the attack came, it took hold quickly and brought a screeching halt to many businesses across Ukraine.

“None of the computers or machines worked except for the General Electric-powered machines like the MRIs [magnetic resonance imaging],” recalled Mykhailo Radutskyi, president of the Boris Clinic – Kiev’s largest medical clinic.

His radiologists decided to turn off the body scanners anyway as a precautionary measure after the building’s IT system went down at two o’clock in the morning in late June.

Doctors across the centre had to resort to taking records solely by paper and pen for the first time since the mid-1990s.

“The main problem for us was that Ukrainian law requires us to keep all our patient info for 25 years, and we lost that medical documentation for the 24 hours when our systems were down,” Mr Radutskyi divulged.

“But thankfully we keep back-ups, so we didn’t lose any information.”

All in all, Mr Radutskyi reckons his clinic’s damage tally totalled $60,000 (£46,000).

Others have been unwilling to reveal how badly they were hit. Oschadbank – one of the country’s biggest lenders – was among those that declined an interview with the BBC.

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The MRI machines at Boris Clinic’s radiology department were turned off as a safety measure

Even now, almost a month after the so-called NotPetya strike, some companies inside and outside the nation are still facing disruption.

Ukraine’s top cyber-cop disclosed that some of the nation’s largest companies were still too scared to share the full scale of the fallout with his investigators.

And Sergiy Demedyuk – head of Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs’ cybercrime division – added he has come to believe there are aftershocks still to come since the hackers appear to have compromised their targets for some time before they pounced, and might still be sitting on data they could yet exploit.

Hijacked software

NotPetya initially appeared to be a ransomware attack, but many now suspect its blackmail demands were a cover for something more ominous.

Experts who have spoken to the BBC are seemingly sure of two things: first, Ukraine was the target, and second, it was not about money.

Despite denials, suspicion has fallen on Ukraine’s eastern neighbour, Russia.

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Ukraine was worst hit by the NotPetya attack in June

“Cyber-attacks are just one part of Russia’s wider efforts to destabilise the country,” Nato’s former chief civil servant Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the BBC.

“In my time as secretary general we agreed that a cyber-attack could trigger Nato’s mutual defence clause.

“The Alliance has been assisting Ukraine especially with monitoring and investigating security incidents. However… more support is also needed for prevention.”

One cybersecurity veteran has been investigating how a local software developer’s program, MeDoc, came to be hijacked to spread the malware.

“It wasn’t just [a case of] take over MeDoc’s update server and push out NotPetya,” explained Nicholas Weaver from University of California, Berkeley.

“Instead, they had previously compromised MeDoc, made it into a remote-control Trojan, and then they were willing to burn this asset to launch this attack,” he added, referring to the fact the servers have since been confiscated by the police.

“That really is huge.”

MeDoc’s tax filing services were used by more than 400,000 customers across Ukraine, representing about 90% of its domestic firms.

Although it was not mandatory for local companies to use it, by virtue of its ubiquity, it’s almost as if it were.

“This was gold they had, basically a control point in almost every business that does business in Ukraine,” said Mr Weaver.

“And they burned this resource in order to launch this destructive attack.”

Losing control

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Mr Demedyuk believes the hackers stole financial details from their victims before encrypting their data

Mr Demedyuk said his police force had concrete evidence that MeDoc was hacked a long time ago and had been used to spy on economic activity within Ukraine.

“The [developers] claimed on their website that it was certificated, that it had been examined with international audit and it’s 100% safe. In fact, it wasn’t true,” he added.

One ex-US Army cyber-expert said the hackers might have felt forced to carry out their attack through fear that MeDoc’s computer servers were about to slip out of their control.

“If you read [security firm] ESET’s report, you see that they gained and lost access repeatedly as legitimate MeDocs updates were pushed,” Jon Nichols said.

“It is possible that the actors just wanted to cause as much damage as they could before they lost control again.”

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Jon Nichols

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Mr Nichols shared these notes of when the hackers lost and regained access to the MeDoc servers

This theory is backed up by another US expert.

“It’s not unheard of if you think you’ll lose your position to launch prematurely,” said Beau Woods deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative.

He added that if the perpetrators had, indeed, gathered financial data about most of Ukraine’s companies, they might still find ways to cause further damage.

Future attacks

Mr Demedyuk said that although only four police officers had been assigned to his NotPetya investigation full-time, he had about 300 people across Ukraine supporting the inquiry.

Furthermore, he has met with Interpol to discuss ways to share information with other international authorities.

While they try to unravel how the attack was carried out, others are preparing for follow-up cyber-assaults.

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Local cyber-security companies are helping Ukranian businesses tighten their online security

In particular, the chief executive of Ukraine’s state-owned energy giant Ukrenergo is concerned it will be a target.

“All our life as an independent country in the last 25 years, we’ve been connected to the Russian power grid and they’ve balanced us,” Vsevolod Kovalchuk told the BBC.

However, he explained, an agreement his firm has struck with European electricity transmission operators to modernise Ukraine’s power grid might have put the firm in Moscow’s cross-hairs.

It might sound like paranoia, but Ukrenergo had already been hit by two cyber-attacks prior to NotPetya.

One occurred just before Christmas.

“That virus worked in our local network for over one year,” Mr Kovalchuk said.

“It collected information and after collecting the information, the hackers put another malware specific for our northern substation and switched it off for 15 minutes. It was only a test but they tried and it was successful.”

Before that Ukrenergo was caught up in the infamous Black Energy attack, in December 2015. It took down half a city’s power for three hours in the dead of winter.

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A mural made for the state-owned energy firm UkrEnergo, which has been struck by three cyber-attacks in recent years

The two incidents meant the firm was already battle-hardened when it was infected by NotPetya.

“A dispatcher called me and said they couldn’t do anything because all of their screens had turned black and were asking for money,” recalled Mr Kovalchuk.

“That was at 11:02 EET [Eastern European Time], and then several minutes later, other computers were in the same situation so I called to my chief IT officer and asked what is this, is this WannaCry or something similar?” he said referring to a ransomware attack that disrupted the NHS and others in May.

“We disconnected our networks, switched off our computers, and then we used our protocols from the past, using paper standards, phones and continued to operate without any computers, without databases, without any systems.”

This time round, the electricity grid was unharmed and power flowed uninterrupted. But the company was left without secondary functions for 10 days.

For Ukraine, the most important questions from here on seem to be: How bad does an attack have to be before serious international attention is paid to it? And: At what point does it become a war crime?

“I think that every six months, we’ll see attacks,” predicted Prof Michael Schmitt, lead author of the Tallinn Manual – the definitive international legal guide to cyber-conflict.

“Even though I’m not 100% sure that it’s Russia, I don’t understand which other country could attack Ukraine. It’s the only logical answer.”

And Ukrainian cybersecurity experts like Alexey Yankovski believe every single business is at risk.

“Ukraine is a playground for attacks, and a large part of the cyber-security community here believes that most of the companies have already been infected,” he told the BBC.

“Every company here should be prepared for the fact that it will be hacked sooner or later.”

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

We will have further features and videos on Wednesday, and then coverage from the two Las Vegas-based events over the following days.

Follow all our coverage via this link

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Shoddy data-stripping exposes firms' to hack attacks

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Fraud targeting senior executives is a “key threat”, said Europol

Large firms are vulnerable to targeted hack attacks because they do little to strip data from files on their websites, suggests research.

The data gets added as employees create documents, images and other files as they maintain and update websites.

The research found user names, employee IDs, software versions and unique IDs for internal computers in the files.

Attackers could use it to craft attacks aimed at senior staff, said security firm Glasswall which did the survey.

Banks, law firms, defence contractors and government departments were all found to be leaking data.

“This is really low-hanging fruit,” said Lewis Henderson, a vice-president at Glasswall, which carried out the survey for the BBC.

Leaky media

To gather the data, Mr Henderson “scraped” target websites for days to ensure he grabbed copies of all the files published by an organisation. Pictures, PDFs, spreadsheets and other documents made public via the sites were all sampled.

“This was all done from a single IP [internet protocol] address and in broad daylight,” he said.

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The data could be used to craft targeted messages that sought to catch out senior staff, warn security firms

Mr Henderson said that a significant proportion of the files contained metadata which betrayed key information about the people who created that file, when they did it, and the version of the software and machine which they used. About 99% of one particular document type contained this data.

In some cases, he added, user names were annotated with internal user IDs and, in one case, he found a detailed guide to a remote login procedure for a law firm’s Far Eastern regional office.

The cache of data gathered would be a perfect starting point for any sophisticated attack that sought to target senior staff or their aides, said Mr Henderson.

“We did what a malicious actor would do,” he said, “which is intelligence gathering on a large scale.”


Armed with the information, Mr Henderson said an attacker would then turn to social media, especially Facebook and LinkedIn, to relate the names found buried in the documents to real people.

Emails bearing booby-trapped attachments could then be crafted for specific individuals after studying their biographical details and recent activity.

“The more information you have the more you can customise the package sent to targets,” he said.

The virus code that attackers buried in the malicious attachments could lurk until it hit the machine used by a specific person, he said, guaranteeing it reached a particular target.

Chief executives and finance heads were rarely targeted directly, said Mr Henderson. Instead attackers tended to go after their aides who are busy, deal with a lot of different people day-to-day and receive a lot of documents.

“Organisations are always surprised when they get hit by targeted attacks,” he said. “They always ask how they found out all that information.”

Cleaning up files to strip out useful data was “simple”, said Mr Henderson.

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By using information shared on social media fraudsters make phishing emails more convincing

“All of them will probably have a policy that says this should not happen,” he added. “But although there’s a policy, there’s not necessarily the due diligence and process to do it.”

The techniques used by Glasswall were “absolutely” the same as those seen in sophisticated, customised cyber-attacks, said Rick Holland, vice-president of strategy at security firm Digital Shadows.

“Anyone doing a targeted attack is going to look at all the documents in a firm’s public footprint,” he said.

Any data on user names gathered from that file sweep would then be compared to the logs derived from recent massive data breaches, he said, adding that this was a technique used by security firms who were under contract to test the digital defences of a company or organisation.

The breach logs might reveal a password associated with a user name that an attacker could use in a bid to take over an account, said Mr Holland.

The recent slew of “mega-breaches” meant there were a lot of user names and passwords available to attackers, he said. One site that gathers breach data, Have I Been Pwned, has amassed data on almost four billion accounts stolen from more than 226 websites.

Firms failed to view the files and documents on their websites as a security risk, he said, because they were focused more on internal threats.

“Many organisations just do not know that the risk is out there,” he said. “Few look at the total risk picture of their digital footprint.”

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

We will have further features and videos on Wednesday, and then coverage from the two Las Vegas-based events over the following days.

Follow all our coverage via this link

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Trump says Apple will build three 'big' new plants in US

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Apple’s boss attended a technology roundtable at the White House in June

Apple’s boss has promised to build three new manufacturing plants in the United States, according to an interview President Donald Trump has given to the Wall Street Journal.

President Trump told the Journal he had a phone conversation with Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook.

“I spoke to (Cook), he’s promised me three big plants – big, big, big,” said President Trump.

Apple has declined to comment on the report.

President Trump told the Wall Street Journal during the interview that discussed a range of matters including tax reform, that Mr Cook had called him to confirm plans for the plants were “going forward”.

During the campaign last year, President Trump made repeated calls for American companies to produce more in the US in order to create jobs and revive the manufacturing sector. Apple was one of the companies that came under fire.

“We’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries,” Mr Trump said in a speech in January last year.

Apple currently manufactures almost all of its products in China but the company employs developers and designers in the US and buys some of its parts from US-based manufacturers such as Corning.

A few products are also made by contract manufacturers in the US.

In May the Apple chief executive said the company was creating a $1bn fund to invest in advanced manufacturing in the US.

Foxconn, a major contractor for Apple, has said it also plans to invest more than $10bn in a display-making factory in the US, possibly in Wisconsin.

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Adobe to kill off Flash plug-in by 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decline and fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But on Chrome, now the most popular web browser, Flash’s usage has fallen off dramatically. In 2014, it was used each day by 80% of desktop users, according to Google. The current figure is just 17%.

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

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

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

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

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

There was immediate reaction to the news on Twitter.

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Uncharted: Moving on from Nathan Drake

“It was daunting,” Sean Escayg tells Newsbeat about making an Uncharted game without Nathan Drake.

The creative director of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy says: “Once we had worked out a new story we were committed to it.”

The wise-cracking, treasure hunting heartthrob’s tale came to a conclusion at the end of Uncharted 4.

This new title, originally planned as downloadable extra content, focuses on the adventures of Chloe Frazer.

Chloe Frazer has appeared in previous Uncharted games as a secondary character.

“She’s an interesting character, she’s pretty mysterious, we don’t know much about her and yet she’s still a fan favourite,” Sean says.

Chloe has featured in previous Uncharted stories but as a secondary character, this time she’s in the spotlight.

“There’s wasn’t any concern or any preoccupation with the fact that we weren’t using Nathan any more.

“We were so invested into the Chloe story that it just started to move on its own.

“The team bought in, pitching ideas and we’re pretty excited about it.”

Uncharted Gameplay

Image caption Sean says he’s proud the game has two female main characters but says the decision was based purely on the story

The Nathan Drake-led series of Uncharted games have been a critical and commercial success.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is thought by some to be one of the greatest games of all time and received over 50 game of the year awards in 2009.

The latest in the series, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End won a BAFTA in 2017 for game of the year.

Sean says the change of lead character will have a noticeable impact on the game.

“The very nature of Chloe changes things, she’s a thief and a hustler.

“This very un-heroic approach to life, in comparison to Nathan Drake, is shifting the tone and experience of the game.”

Uncharetd Gameplay

Image caption Nadine Ross in action in the PlayStation exclusive, out in August

Chloe is joined by mercenary Nadine Ross as her sidekick in this adventure.

Another veteran of previous games, it means the title has two female leads characters, not something you see everyday.

Sean tells us: “We explored pairing Chloe with other characters from this universe.

“Nadine was just the best fit, we’re pretty proud we have two female lead characters.

“We’re not ones that would shy away from that, we just pursue the best story no matter what.”

Uncharted Gameplay

Image caption Sean says he isn’t worried with the similarities with the Tomb Raider franchise

A treasure hunting adventure title with a feisty female lead character does ring some bells though. Lara Croft anyone?

Sean says they’re not worried about people making the comparison: “I’ve not played Tomb Raider!” he laughs.

“Subconsciously we can’t help but be influenced by what we’ve seen, but I don’t know much about the franchise so I know I’m not influenced by it.”

Originally planned as additional downloadable content for Uncharted 4, the title grew into a full game of its own.

Sean says they’re hoping to appeal to long standing fans of the franchise while also attracting new players: “You could play this game by itself it’s fully standalone.

“If you are an Uncharted fan then you will find references to that world.”

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

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Robot vacuum company mulls selling maps of homes

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IRobot, the maker of the Roomba smart vacuum, could one day sell data drawn from the maps the devices build up of individual homes as they clean.

The Roomba is an automated floor cleaner that can be activated via an app and find its own way around, using sensors and a camera.

Founder Colin Angle said the data they gathered could be used to make other devices work better in a smart home.

Nothing would be done without the owner’s consent, he added.

“Right now, iRobot is building maps to enable the Roomba to efficiently and effectively clean your home,” he said in a statement.

“In the future, with your permission, this information will enable the smart home and the devices within it to work better.

“For example, in order for the lights to turn on when you walk into a room, the home must know what lights are in which rooms.”

The device became compatible with Amazon’s digital assistant, the Echo, in March, and Mr Angle suggested to Reuters that Amazon, Google or Apple could be interested in the data collected by Roomba.

None of the companies commented.


Roomba’s terms and conditions state that it collects a range of data about its customers, including when they interact with it on social media.

When connected to wi-fi, the device can collect and transmit information about itself and its location, they add.

Security researcher Ken Munro, from Pen Test Partners, told the BBC that privacy could be an issue.

“I think manufacturers aren’t seeing the growth everyone expected in internet of things, and the temptation for gathering data from your house and monetising it is enormous,” he said.

“We think about the internet of things invading our security, but actually it has the potential to invade our privacy too.”

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Musk and Zuckerberg clash over future of AI

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Elon Musk is worried that artificial intelligence could eventually destroy humanity

Elon Musk has accused Mark Zuckerberg of failing to understand artificial intelligence.

It comes after the Facebook boss said that the doomsday scenario put forward by Mr Musk was unhelpful.

Mr Musk tweeted: “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.”

The pair represent two distinct groups, those saying AI’s benefits will outweigh its negatives and those saying it could ultimately destroy humanity.

Mr Zuckerberg’s comments were made as part of an informal Facebook Live chat, aired during a barbecue at his Palo Alto home.

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Mark Zuckerberg is an optimist, believing AI will bring far more benefits than downsides

A viewer asked him about a recent interview with Mr Musk, in which he said his biggest fear for the future was AI.

“I have pretty strong opinions on this. I am optimistic. I think you can build things and the world gets better. But with AI especially, I am really optimistic,” Mr Zuckerberg replied.

“And I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios – I just, I don’t understand it.

“It’s really negative, and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible.”

“In the next five to 10 years, AI is going to deliver so many improvements in the quality of our lives.”

Mr Musk began warning AI could destroy humans three years ago, when, during a talk at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the billionaire Space X founder called it humanity’s “biggest existential threat”.

And he has founded OpenAI, a billion-dollar non-profit company working for “safer artificial intelligence”.

Bill Gates has also voiced concern about the threat AI poses, as has Prof Stephen Hawking.

But Mr Zuckerberg said: “AI is going to make our lives better.”

And Facebook, the company he founded, uses AI to offer better targeted advertising, for curating news feeds and for photo tagging.

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India says no to driverless cars to protect jobs

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India’s traffic can be chaotic, which could make developing autonomous vehicles difficult

India is resisting the push towards driverless cars in order to protect jobs, its transport minister has said.

Nitin Gadkari said the government would “not allow any technology that takes away jobs”.

He said India needed to recruit about 22,000 more commercial drivers and would be opening 100 training facilities to address the need.

India’s road system and sometimes chaotic traffic makes it a difficult place to develop the technology.

The Hindustan Times reports Mr Gadkari as saying: “We won’t allow driverless cars in India. I am very clear on this.

“In a country where you have unemployment, you can’t have a technology that ends up taking people’s jobs.”

Truly autonomous cars

However, he did not rule out the idea of a future change of policy.

“Maybe some years down the line we won’t be able to ignore it, but as of now, we shouldn’t allow it,” he added.

Google, BMW, Tesla, Audi and Uber are among businesses working hard to be the first to bring truly autonomous cars on to roads.

Self-drive technology trials, both for private cars and commercial vehicles, are being carried out around the world.

‘They haven’t changed’

Google has been testing self-drive cars in California and other states since 2012.

Paris began a three-month test of self-driving buses at the beginning of the year, and in the UK a consortium of companies plans to test driverless cars on motorways in 2019, while others are testing cars in off-road sites, including in London.

Commenting on the decision on Twitter, Indian congressman Gaurav Pandhi tweeted: “The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) said the same when Rajiv Gandhi talked about introducing computers to India. They haven’t really changed.”

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Google SOS Alerts added to search results and maps

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SOS Alerts has already been used to flag information about wildfires within Google Maps

Google has begun rounding up information about unfolding natural disasters, terrorism and other crises within its Search and Maps tools.

Visitors will be shown updates from authorities, news articles, emergency telephone numbers and other useful information in a single place.

The SOS Alerts facility can also be set to trigger mobile notifications to those nearby to affected locations.

However, it will apply to only a dozen countries at launch.

The initiative builds on earlier emergency response efforts from the US firm, including its Person Finder and Crisis Map tools.

But this time, rather than requiring users to go to special sections of its site, SOS Alerts attempts to bring key information about incidents directly into two of Google’s most used services.

Foreign phrases

When activated, the Maps tool reveals, among other things, areas that should be avoided, which roads have been closed and places users can seek refuge.

Data gathered from the firm’s crowdsourced Waze mapping platform also makes it possible to see where traffic jams, accidents and other problems have been reported by the public.

The level of detail shown within the Search tool depends on whether the person carrying out the query is close to the incident.

If nearby, they are presented with links to official alerts, tweets from first responders, and useful short phrases in the local language.

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Google Search users will be shown different details depending on how close they are to the disaster

Those searching from afar are shown less detail unless they click for more information, but they may also be told how to make donations to charities involved in clean-up operations, if Google believes it to be appropriate.

“In situations of crisis, the need for information is crucial,” Yossi Matias, the firm’s vice-president of engineering, told the BBC.

“People need to know what’s going on – anything that may be related to their safety, or any action they should be taking.”

He added that Google had set up a dedicated team to decide which events warranted an SOS Alert, but declined to reveal how many people had been assigned to it.

Facebook – which offers a parallel service to let members in the vicinity of a disaster tell friends they are safe – has at times been criticised for activating it under “inappropriate” circumstances.

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Android and iOS users can opt to be sent alerts if they are detected to be close to an event

Google has joined forces with with local-government bodies, the Red Cross and various weather-forecasting organisations to provide SOS Alerts to 12 countries so far. They include the US, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and Canada.

But the UK and other European nations are not covered yet, although there are plans to add them soon.

“Radio and television were once the only channels to quickly provide information in an emergency, but the internet and mobile phones have become increasingly important,” said Robert Glenn, director at the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the scheme.

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Microsoft Paint avoids brush with death

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Eleanor Walsh

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The new Doctor Who was re-created in Microsoft Paint by user Eleanor Walsh

Microsoft has confirmed that it will continue to offer its graphics program Paint.

In a recent update, it had listed Paint as a feature that would be either removed or no longer developed.

Paint, renowned for its simplicity, has been part of the Windows operating system since its launch in 1985.

Microsoft suggested it would not remain on Windows 10 by default but did confirm it would be available for free on the Windows Store.

Its successor, Paint 3D, will be part of the Windows 10 package.

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This mountain scene was shared by user Valprine on Twitter.

There had been an outpouring of support for the program, on social media, following the publication of the list, on 24 July.

“If there’s anything we learned, it’s that after 32 years, MS Paint has a lot of fans,” the Microsoft wrote in a blog.

“It’s been amazing to see so much love for our trusty old app.”

There does not appear to have been a similar reprieve for other features on the list of casualties.

These included the Outlook Express email client, now replaced by Mail.

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Paddington Bear was shared with the BBC by user Foxymulderx

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Wisconsin company Three Square Market to microchip employees

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Three Square Market believe microchipping yourself will be the next big craze

A Wisconsin company is to become the first in the US to microchip employees.

Three Square Market is offering to implant the tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip into workers’ hands for free – and says everyone will soon be doing it.

The rice grain-sized $300 (£230) chip will allow them to open doors, log in to computers and even purchase food.

And so far, 50 employees have signed up for the chance to become half-human, half-walking credit card.

But far from being some sort of dystopian nightmare, Three Square Market’s Patrick McMullan believes everyone will soon be wanting their own microchip.

“The international market place is wide open and we believe that the future trajectory of total market share is going to be driven by whoever captures this arena first,” Mr McMullan said.

The company, which provides self-service “micro markets” to businesses around the world, was inspired by the micro-chipping already taking place in Sweden, where so-called “bio-hackers” have been inserting the tiny devices into willing participants for at least three years.

Three Square Market are even working with a Swedish company, BioHax, to deliver the new technology, which they see as one day being simply another payment and identification method – only instead of a credit card or phone, there would be a microchip between your thumb and finger.

But how did employees react?

While a large proportion of the world might think twice before putting a tiny chip in their hand, it seems those at Three Square Market had no such worries.

Out of 85 employees at the company’s head office, 50 have come forward, vice-president of international development Tony Danna told the BBC.

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The microchip is like one you would find on a credit card

“The people that wanted it were like yes, no hesitation,” he said.

Can they be tracked?

“That is going to be the inevitable reaction,” Mr Danna acknowledged.

“But there is no GPS tracking ability to it. It is really the same thing as the chip that is in your credit card.”

How does it go in – and how do you get it out?

The entire point of the chip is convenience, Mr Danna explained.

Eventually, he hopes it will replace everything you might have in your wallet – from your key fob to your credit card and ID. For now, it is just aiming to make life easier for those using Three Square Market’s facilities.

But the convenience also stretches to installing and removing the chip.

“It takes about two seconds to put it in and to take it out,” he told the BBC. Putting it in is “like getting a shot” using a syringe, while taking it out it like removing a splinter.

“Easy in, easy out,” Mr Danna said.

What if you get robbed?

Like everything in life, it could happen.

But, says Mr Danna, at least it is all in one place, making it easier to cancel all those cards.

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UK's first boot camp hopes to reform teenage hackers

The National Crime Agency has started the UK’s first ‘rehab’ course for hackers.

The first classes held in Bristol aim to explain to attendees what is illegal online.

While the UK has ‘rehab’ for drug misuse and education classes for poor drivers it has not had similar schemes for hackers.

The NCA says the average age of a person arrested for cyber crime is 17 and many would benefit from applying their skills in the security industry.

BBC Click’s Dan Simmons spoke to some of the offenders.

You can see the report in full on Click over the weekend of July 29 and 30, 2017 on BBC World News, the BBC News Channel and BBCiPlayer (UK only)

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

We will have further features and videos on Wednesday, and then coverage from the two Las Vegas-based events over the following days.

Follow all our coverage via this link

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

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Rehab camp aims to put young cyber-crooks on right track

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Media captionWATCH: The National Crime Agency has started the UK’s first ‘rehab’ course for hackers

Teenagers caught carrying out hacking and cyber-attacks could soon be attending a rehab camp that aims to divert them away from a life of crime.

The first weekend camp for offenders was held in Bristol this month as part of the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) work with young computer criminals.

Attendees learned about responsible use of cyber-skills and got advice about careers in computer security.

If the trial proves successful, it will be rolled out across the UK.

The people picked to attend the residential weekend were known to police because they had been caught carrying out one or more computer crimes, said Ethan Thomas, an operations officer in the NCA’s Prevent team, which engages with young cyber-offenders.

‘Attacks, attacks, attacks’

Hundreds of fledgling cyber-criminals have been contacted by the NCA as part of its Prevent work. Some received letters warning them that their online activity had been spotted and some were visited at home by officers.

The seven young men attending the weekend camp had gone further than many the NCA is aware of. They had either been arrested, visited by officers because they were spotted using tools or techniques that break UK computer misuse laws or been cautioned by police because of offences committed at school.

They had been caught defacing websites, knocking servers offline and carrying out hack attacks that let them take over restricted networks.

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Teenage hackers are known to have been behind an attack on the TalkTalk network

One attendee said an early fascination with numbers and his accidental “hack” of a primary school network that locked everyone out of the system, got him hooked on computers.

The skills he built up were put to malicious use later on, he said, because they were a way to escape the bullying he suffered at school.

He used technical vulnerabilities to break into networks by exploiting vulnerabilities and used psychological tricks, known as social engineering, to force people to cough up details that helped him burrow further in.

“I manipulated people’s feelings and thoughts to my own advantage,” he said. “It was all attacks, attacks, attacks and nothing on the good side.”

One attack on a company website was done just for “mischief” but left the organisation behind it with a hefty bill as it struggled to recover.

“I didn’t mean to do it,” said the young man. “I had no intention to cause harm.”

The investigation into the attack led police to the teenager, who was then arrested. He was given a two-year suspended sentence along with a series of other conditions – one of which was to attend the weekend rehab event.

Teenage cyber-offender: ‘Exciting and fun’

Originally it was me and two other friends who, just for a bit of fun, tried to see what we could do. We tried to break into our school’s network.

We ended up creating our own administrator account that gave us full access to the school’s monitoring system. We could control people’s screens, we could send them messages, we could change passwords.

It was quite exciting just seeing what we could do – trying stuff, and if it worked, then it was really exciting because it was, ‘Oh, we didn’t expect that to work.’ We’d take that further and go on to the next thing and the next thing until we had that access.

It was exciting. You work hard at a little task and then when you finish it, you want to take it a bit further. You want to carry on and then it gets to the point that you realise you shouldn’t carry on.

And then it’s too late.

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Many of those attending the rehab weekend first got into trouble hacking their school network

“The weekend was designed to do a few things,” said the NCA’s Ethan Thomas, “but mostly it was to positively divert those that could be putting their skills to a more positive and legal use.”

The two-day residential camp reinforced messages about using technical skills responsibly and called on industry professionals who gave talks about jobs in cyber-security. It had the air of a school trip as in that much of the fun was closely supervised and had an educational bent.

Attendees learned about the different roles computer security staff take on including forensic analysis, network protection and mounting attacks on companies – known as red teaming. They also did coding challenges, took each other on in hacking games and learned about bug bounty schemes. These schemes could mean they would get paid for finding and reporting the loopholes they used to exploit for their own ends.

After the weekend, one attendee said: “Now I know cyber-security exists it sounds like it would be something I really, really want to go into.

“You get the same rush, the same excitement, but you are using it for fun still, but it is legal and you get paid,” he said. “So, it’s every kind of benefit.”

Good guidance

Mr Thomas said the idea for the event grew out of an NCA research project that compared the hacking skills of people on both sides of the law.

“It measured up the profiles of different offenders we had and compared it to those of talented people in the industry,” he said. “What we found was that the only sole difference within the stories was that the industry members, at some point, had an intervention.”

Mr Thomas said these pivotal moments in the career of a young person came from different sources – parents, guardians or teachers – but the guidance given demonstrated how effective such an intervention could be.

“The skills are so transferable with this crime type,” he said. “If you have good cyber-skills there are many, many qualifications you can take.”

He said the people who took part in the weekend would be monitored to see how their experience changed them. The NCA said it was planning to introduce similar weekends across the UK if they proved to be able to set young malicious hackers on the straight and narrow.

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The NCA has carried out visits to teenagers caught downloading hacking tools

Solomon Gilbert, a former offender who now runs his own cyber-firm, Ferox Security, spoke to attendees about his past, which was very familiar to many of them.

“I got into more and more trouble for hacking inside of the school,” he said. “Hacking student emails and things like that.”

“I was getting drawn in to making my own malicious code and making my own exploits,” he said, adding that he went on to steal sensitive information solely to satisfy his own curiosity.

Time on the computer also helped him cope with his autism spectrum disorder as it helped quiet the “noise in his head”, he said.

With the help of a “brilliant” IT teacher, Mr Gilbert found his way to a job helping defend firms rather than attacking them.

“Everybody in the cyber-security industry has one person that they have met who has gone, ‘Well, you’re very talented at this so let’s get you to do this as a job,'” he said. “Everyone has that.

“For me, all this guy did was show me that I could have just as much fun, and it could be just as mentally profitable on the good side as it was on the bad,” he said.

“It was a small thing, but it had a hell of a lot of impact.”

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

We will have further features and videos on Wednesday, and then coverage from the two Las Vegas-based events over the following days.

Follow all our coverage via this link

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Cash machine hacked in five minutes

After cash machines were hacked in Thailand and Taiwan in 2016, Click asks if the same thing could happen again.

Leigh-Anne Galloway, a security expert with Positive Technologies, says most cash machines are effectively a Windows XP computer attached to a safe.

BBC Click’s Spencer Kelly joins her with a cash machine to find out more.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

We will have further features and videos on Wednesday, and then coverage from the two Las Vegas-based events over the following days.

Follow all our coverage via this link

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Staging security at the National Theatre

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Brinkhoff Mogenberg

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More than 700,000 people watch the National Theatre’s live stage productions every year

Step through the stage door of the National Theatre on London’s South Bank and you will find yourself in a corridor with a bright yellow floor.

“We call it the ‘yellow brick road’,” said George Tunnicliffe, the theatre’s head of IT operations, who could be considered the wizard at the heart of this venerable institution.

But Mr Tunnicliffe has little else in common with the man behind the curtains in Oz, who was all show and no substance. He leaves the showboating to the actors, producers, directors, stage hands and support staff who put on about 30 different productions a year.

“We want those guys to work without having to think about cyber-security and things like that, their job is to put on an awesome production,” he said during a backstage tour of the theatre.

Mr Tunnicliffe organises its defences against not only the kind of cyber-attacks faced by other companies, but theatre-specific ones like touts trying to grab tickets to popular shows.

“We do see a lot of attacks and they are getting more sophisticated,” he said.

Closer look

At the heart of the security stance is a much greater knowledge of who is doing what on the theatre’s network – no matter where they are.

“We’ve spent a lot of time understanding how everyone works,” he said. “We have a monitoring board in the IT office so we can see minute-by-minute what’s going on and where issues are happening.”

That’s key, he said, because it can expose ongoing attacks and the reconnaissance many hackers carry out before they strike.

“Every device has information on it that could be useful to an attacker,” said Mr Tunnicliffe.

“With drive-by and phishing attacks that’s what people are looking to do – build up a picture of an organisation,” he said. “Especially with something like whaling and the social engineering element of that.”

Whaling is a very tightly-focused form of phishing which plays on a close knowledge of an organisation’s internal structure to forge emails from executives that make finance staff speed up the payment of a fictitious invoice or bill.

Millions of pounds has been lost by organisations that have fallen victim to that kind of scam.

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Helen Maybanks

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Scammers try to cash in on the popularity of productions like Angels In America

The monitoring board helps spot when data is going astray or a machine is visiting a site with a reputation for being involved in a scam.

Complementing this is work to segment internal systems so staff working for different bits of the theatre only see a small part of the whole organisation.

That helps with some of the unique challenges faced by an organisation like the theatre which, although it has its headquarters in London, has a mandated role to bring art and drama to as wide an audience as possible.

It has units staging productions around the UK and the world – War Horse is currently on tour in China. It also runs workshops for schools and, via its Connections programme, lets drama groups for younger people enjoy a taste of professional theatre.

During an average year it stages 3,000 performances seen by a total audience of about 2.5 million people – 700,000 of whom see them live.

Productions work to a six-week rehearsal and staging schedule which means there is a constant flow of temporary staff through the building.

“Organisations that do have a high turnover of staff usually have a high risk of insider threat,” said Neil Thacker from security firm Forcepoint, which helps the theatre secure its digital borders. “That can be because they are learning new systems and making mistakes and data is lost accidentally.”

‘Disaster recovery’

The strict divisions among staff who work together limits the information that could be leaked and helps investigate what caused data to go astray, said Mr Thacker. That can be critical to help understand the nature of a threat – whether it was malicious or a mistake.

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National Theatre

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Tunnicliffe: We see a lot of attacks and they are getting more sophisticated

“We know where data is and then, if it leaves, we know where it has gone,” said Mr Tunnicliffe.

Alongside this goes an active programme of testing that tries to prepare staff for the bad day when disaster strikes. It is inevitable that it will, he said, because no defence is ever going to be 100% proof against the barrage of threats it, and every other organisation, is hit with every day.

“We have spent a lot of time creating disaster recovery scenarios,” he said. “We’ve practiced viruses taking down the network, ransomware outbreaks and things like that.”

Carrying out the drills means that staff should be able to react more quickly and effectively when they need to, said Mr Tunnicliffe.

“We repeat these scenarios and test them at different points in time,” he said.

For many of the most likely security disasters, the NT has created tools that can quickly fix a problem, such as a till in a restaurant failing, or that can diagnose and repair a key part of the theatre’s infrastructure.

“We’ve built push button stuff so the engineers do not have to think about what to do when they need to solve a problem,” he said. “We have a good sense of where our kit is and what it is linked to, so if something happens we know what is going to be affected.”

The ideal is when the directors, actors and support staff can get on with what they do without having to be an expert on the intricacies of cyber-security or changing practices distilled over decades.

It is a situation the National Theatre is steadily working towards, said Mr Tunnicliffe.

“They are here to do the art and I am here to make it safe,” he said.

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

We will have further features and videos on Wednesday, and then coverage from the two Las Vegas-based events over the following days.

Follow all our coverage via this link

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China set to launch an 'unhackable' internet communication

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Quantum communication uses light to send crucial information

As malicious hackers mount ever more sophisticated attacks, China is about to launch a new, “unhackable” communications network – at least in the sense that any attack on it would be quickly detected.

The technology it has turned to is quantum cryptography, a radical break from the traditional encryption methods around. The Chinese project in the city of Jinan has been touted as a milestone by state media.

The pioneering project is also part of a bigger story: China is taking the lead in a technology in which the West has long been hesitant to invest.

In the Jinan network, some 200 users from the military, government, finance and electricity sectors will be able to send messages safe in the knowledge that only they are reading them.

China’s push in quantum communication means the country is taking huge strides developing applications that might make the increasingly vulnerable internet more secure. Applications that other countries soon might find themselves buying from China.

So, what is this technology into which the country is pouring massive resources?

‘Unhackable’ communication

If you send a message you want to keep secure from eavesdroppers, traditional encryption works by hiding the key needed to read the message in a very difficult mathematical problem.

But what is “difficult” in terms of maths? It means you have to think really fast to figure it out as you try endless combinations of long, numeric keys. In 2017, that means you need to use a very powerful computer.

Steady improvements in computer power mean that the number-based keys have to be lengthened periodically. Encryption has a shelf life and is rapidly becoming more vulnerable.

There are also fears that the development of quantum computers, which effectively represent a massive step change in number crunching ability, will render much of modern encryption software vulnerable.

Quantum communication works differently:

  • If you want to send your secure message, you first separately send a key embedded in particles of light
  • Only then doyou send your encrypted message and the receiver will be able to read it with the help of the key sent beforehand

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If a key is embedded in light particles, any interception will be noticed

The crucial advantage of this so-called quantum key distribution is that if anyone tries to intercept the light particles, they necessarily alter or destroy them.

What this means is that any attempt at hacking will immediately be noticed by the original sender and the intended receiver – hence its description as “unhackable”.

Leaving the West behind

If quantum communication can help to secure online communications, why is China so far ahead?

“For a long time people simply didn’t think it was needed,” says Prof Myungshik Kim of Imperial College, London, adding that it was not clear whether there was a commercial market for this technology.

“The mathematical difficulty of the current coding system was so high that it was not thought necessary to implement the new technology,” he says.

The research itself is not new and China does not have an edge over the competition. Where it does have an advantage is when it comes to applications.

“Europe has simply missed the boat,” says Prof Anton Zeilinger, a quantum physicist at Vienna University in Austria and a pioneer in the field.

He says he tried to convince the EU as early as 2004 to fund more quantum-based projects but it had little effect.

“Europe has been dragging its feet and this has hindered us from being able to compete,” he says.

There are quantum key-based networks operating in the US and Europe but most are being carried out as research projects, rather than with commercial partners.

Creating a market

One problem is that it is expensive to build applications like the Jinan network. And if there is not yet a commercial market, it is hard to get investors or governments as backers.

“We have to admit that when China invests into something, they have the financial power and manpower that is beyond probably anything else in the world except the US military,” says Valerio Scarani, a physicist with Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore.

The Jinan network is not the only quantum communication application China has developed.

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China Daily/Reuters

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China’s quantum satellite was launched from the Gobi Desert

Last year, it launched a satellite equipped to test quantum communication over large distances that cannot be bridged by cables. There has also been a link established between the country’s two main hubs, Beijing and Shanghai, so both ends can communicate and know when others are listening in.

So while it might not be clear yet whether quantum communication will indeed be the one technology to replace traditional encryption, it is widely considered as one of the leading candidates.

And China, in turn, is the leading country when it comes to building and experimenting with real applications of it.

“It’s a situation where the technology can create its market,” says Prof Zeilinger.

Once the technology is sold by Chinese companies, international banks might well be the first lining up as customers.

This week BBC News is taking a close look at all aspects of cyber-security. The coverage is timed to coincide with the two biggest shows in the security calendar – Black Hat and Def Con.

We will have further features and videos on Wednesday, and then coverage from the two Las Vegas-based events over the following days.

Follow all our coverage via this link

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Sweden data leak 'a disaster', says PM

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Getty Images

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Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said the leak was “a disaster”

The Swedish government has admitted to a huge data leak made by one of its own departments during an IT outsourcing procedure in 2015.

Sweden’s prime minister said it was “a disaster”, Swedish media reported.

Reports say that confidential data about military personnel, along with defence plans and witness protection details, were exposed by the Transport Agency.

They were visible to workers without security clearance during the transfer.

Last month, the agency’s former director general Maria Agren, who left her role in January, was fined 70,000 Swedish krona (£6,500, $8,500).

Sensitive data

There is no suggestion that IBM Sweden, the outsourced company with which the data was shared, was in the wrong – and the tech giant declined to comment.

Operations to ensure that only security-cleared staff have access to the data will be completed by the autumn, the Transport Agency said in a statement (link in Swedish).

It explained that Ms Agren had “decided to abstain” from the National Security Act, the Personal Data Act and the Publicity and Privacy Act when dealing with the outsourcing.

The agency declined to elaborate on the confidential data it holds but said it did not have a register of military pilots, airports or aircraft.

However said it did have information about people with “protected identities” – but added that they should not be worried.

“We have no indications indicating that data was disseminated improperly, so we do not see any direct cause for concern,” it said.

All of the data remained housed in Sweden, it said.

Taking action

“I take this seriously and action has been taken,” said the agency’s new director general Jonas Bjelfvenstam.

“Obviously, we as an authority must comply with the laws, regulations and security requirements that apply in our area of ​​activity. We are doing everything we can to avoid such a situation in the future.”

Rick Falkvinge, head of privacy at Private Internet Access and a founder of the Pirate Party, wrote in a blog that he believed it demonstrated that governments were not reliable guardians of data.

“Let’s be clear: if a common mortal had leaked this data through this kind of negligence, the penalty would be life in prison,” he said.

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Microsoft signals end of Paint program

Microsoft’s graphics program Paint has been included in a list of Windows 10 features that will be either removed or no longer developed.

Paint has been part of the Windows operating system since its release in 1985 and is known for its simplicity and basic artistic results.

Paint’s successor, Paint 3D, will still be available.

The list was issued as part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which rolls out in the autumn.

Microsoft says that features on the list will be either removed from Windows 10 or “not in active development and might be removed in future releases”.

Other features facing the axe include the Outlook Express email client, which is replaced with the built-in Mail app, and the Reader app, which will be integrated into Microsoft Edge.

The BBC has contacted Microsoft for comment.

RIP Paint

People have expressed disappointment at the news on social media, with many tweeting “RIP” messages.

Welsh YouTuber Chaotic described Paint as “the greatest thing to have ever existed” – perhaps with tongue in cheek.

The artist known as Jim’ll Paint It uses the program to create artwork on outlandish themes, commissioned by strangers. He has nearly 700,000 followers on Facebook.

“Paint hasn’t been all that since they messed about with it anyway. I’m running XP on a virtual machine because it’s the best one,” he tweeted.

“They should just release the source and make it public domain,” tweeted games developer Mike Dailly, creator of Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.

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C-Turtle: The landmine-detecting robot 'turtle'

A disposable landmine detecting robot has been developed by Arizona State University.

Current de-mining robots can handle repeated blows but are big and expensive.

The disposable C-Turtle is made from cardboard, powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero computer and costs £50 ($65).

BBC Click’s Nick Kwek finds out more.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

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UK to bring in drone registration

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Getty Images

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Under an existing code, drones must be kept within sight of their pilot

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Protect the public’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Common sense’

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

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

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

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

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3D-printed drone's space station pictures and other news

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

  • Atari reveals more details about its new video game console, the Ataribox
  • A security robot in Washington DC “drowns” after falling into a fountain
  • Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) 3D-printed drone sends its first pictures of the International Space Station back to Earth

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

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AI demo picks out recipes from food photos

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One suggestion for spaghetti bolognese was “gunk on noodles”.

An algorithm created to identify recipes for food just from a photograph has been demonstrated by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The neural network was trained on a dataset of one million photos and one million recipes.

The trial model worked best on desserts and found smoothies and sushi more challenging, the researchers said.

The team has released an online trial although it is not a finished product.

When tested by the BBC, recipes that were generated based on a picture of spaghetti bolognese included “Italian tomato sauce” and “gunk on noodles”.

A photo of a Black Forest gateau yielded “chocolate mocha cake” and “frozen grasshopper squares” – both of which looked similar to the image uploaded – and it successfully identified a hot dog.

“In computer vision, food is mostly neglected because we don’t have the large-scale datasets needed to make predictions,” said MIT researcher Yusuf Aytar.

“But seemingly useless photos on social media can actually provide valuable insight into health habits and dietary preferences.”

The team will be presenting their paper at a conference in Honolulu later this month.

Previous models by other researchers have not used such a large data bank.

In the future the system could be developed to include how a food is prepared and could also be adapted to provide nutritional information, MIT said.

Deep learning

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Media caption“Deep learning” is a branch of machine learning based on a set of algorithms

Artificial intelligence expert Calum Chace, author of The Economic Singularity, said the system was an interesting use of deep learning.

“It’s an example of how machines can not only do things that humans cannot, but they perceive the world very differently from us,” he told the BBC.

“Just as AlphaGo showed the world’s best Go players whole new ways of looking at the game they had spent their lives mastering, this system will enable us to see the very food we eat in a different way.”

In May 2017 Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo artificial intelligence defeated the world’s number one Go player Ke Jie, who was reduced to tears.

Following its success, AlphaGo was retired, with DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis saying it had achieved its objective.

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Moneysupermarket fined for sending seven million unwanted emails

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The website compares prices on many services.

Price comparison website Moneysupermarket has been fined £80,000 ($103,000) by the Information Commissioners Office for sending more than seven million emails to people who had opted out of receiving its communications.

The firm said it apologised “unreservedly”.

The emails regarded changes to the terms and conditions of the site.

However they also invited people to “reconsider” their opt-out.

Asking them to do this is against the law, said the ICO.

“Organisations can’t get around the law by sending direct marketing dressed up as legitimate updates,” said ICO enforcer Steve Eckersley in a statement.

“When people opt out of direct marketing, organisations must stop sending it, no questions asked, until such time as the consumer gives their consent. They don’t get a chance to persuade people to change their minds.”

Moneysupermarket issued an apology.

“At Moneysupermarket, we take the protection of our customers’ data and privacy very seriously,” said a spokesman.

“We apologise unreservedly to the customers affected by this isolated incident and we have put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

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YouTube to redirect searches for IS videos

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YouTube will offer curated playlists denouncing terrorism

YouTube says it will redirect people searching for “violent extremist propagandaand offer them videos that denounce terrorism.

People searching for certain terms relating to the so-called Islamic State group will be offered playlists of videos “debunking its mythology”.

YouTube said it wanted to help prevent people being radicalised.

The company told the BBC that uploading IS propaganda was already against its terms and conditions.

In a blog post, the video-streaming giant said it was implementing ideas from the Redirect Method, a campaign that tries to steer the IS audience towards videos that debunk the group’s recruitment tactics.

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Redirect Method

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In one of the videos, an elderly lady confronts so-called Islamic State fighters

The themed video playlists challenge claims by the so-called Islamic State group that it provides good governance, is a strong military force, and that world powers are conspiring to harm Muslims.

Rather than producing new material, the playlists contain videos already uploaded to YouTube that present an opposing point of view, such as:

  • testimony from people who have left IS, describing what life in the group was really like
  • footage of a suffering elderly lady confronting two IS fighters and telling them to “return to the way of God”
  • speeches by imams denouncing violence and extremism
  • footage from inside IS-controlled areas, showing the reality of life there

The Redirect Method says pre-existing videos, rather than specially commissioned content, are more effective because they are seen to be more trustworthy.

“Media created by governments or Western news outlets can be rejected on face value, for a perception of promoting an anti-Muslim agenda,” the organisation says in its methodology.

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Footage on YouTube shows long queue for food in IS-controlled areas

It said videos uploaded by the public “would not be be rejected outright by our target audience”.

YouTube told the BBC that it would begin redirecting users searching for particular terms in English, but would later add other languages including Arabic.

Algorithms will help determine whether other search keywords need to be included in the scheme, and the company will monitor whether people are engaging with the curated playlists.

While anybody searching for terrorist propaganda would be redirected, including academics and journalists, YouTube said such content was already against its terms and conditions and was removed when discovered.

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Newcastle University students targeted by cyber-scam

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Newcastle University

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Newcastle University has issued a warning about the fake site

Newcastle University is warning prospective students not to give out personal details on a fraudulent website taking payments for courses.

The fake site uses pictures of Newcastle University buildings and takes payments for a non-existent “Newcastle International University”.

It is “in no way associated with the university”, warns the university’s official Twitter feed.

Students should avoid accessing the site, the university advises.

The site has been described as unusually realistic, but Newcastle International University does not appear on the government’s official lists of degree providers in the UK.

‘Effective scam’

Azeem Aleem, director of advanced cyber-defence practice at RSA security’s Europe Middle East and Africa region, said: “Make no mistake, this is an effective scam.

“They’ve put in the time and effort to create a remarkably realistic website, and it highlights the very real danger of modern spoofing attacks.”

Mr Aleem said the fake site carefully targets overseas students “who may not have the local knowledge to spot the difference between this site and Newcastle University’s official site”.

He praised Newcastle University for a swift response once the fraudulent site was reported to them earlier this week.

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Newcastle University

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The fake site features pictures of Newcastle University buildings

Kirsten Edmondson, head of digital at the university, said the scam came to light when a prospective international student tweeted a question about it.

Ms Edmondson said she was particularly concerned that the site asks for passport numbers and credit card information.

“We would never ask for these details as part of an application,” said Ms Edmondson.

New features

Handing them over on this site would leave prospective students at risk of identity theft and losing their money and not receiving any education in return, she added.

She said it was impossible to say whether anyone had handed over personal information – but investigations have shown that the site has been active since 7 July and new features have been added even since it was discovered.

She is particularly concerned that the site is targeting agencies who help pair overseas students with suitable UK courses.

In a statement, Newcastle University said it had reported the site to the internet hosting company and to the internet standards organisation ICANN.

“The University is working with National Cyber Crime police team, and the case has been registered with the cyber-security team in the National Crime Agency.

“We proactively announced on social media that this is a fraudulent website and have responded to some student enquiries and will continue to do so. We would urge any students not to access this site and go to our official site: www.ncl.ac.uk or call the university’s general number if they have any queries.”

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Tracking the stars

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Australian rugby league fans could see how fast and active each player was during the game

Sports teams have used wearable sensors in training for several years as a way of tracking player development and fitness. But now live streaming of such data during matches and races is ushering in a new era of fan involvement.

For the rugby stars lining up for the opening clash of Australia’s annual State of Origin series in May, this was a game of firsts.

For the first time ever in rugby league, the first time in Australian sport, and the first time in a stadium of more than 50,000 spectators, players would have their data streamed live so fans could track every aspect of their performance in unprecedented detail.

Each player wore a vest under their shirt fitted with a UWB (Ultra Wide Band) device.

More accurate than GPS, the system – dubbed ClearSky – relied on 20 beacons placed around the stadium generating more than 1,000 live data points per second. The positioning information was accurate to within 15cm (6in).

Fans could track the distances players ran, the speed of their runs, their “micro-movements”, and as well as heat maps of where each player had mostly been on the pitch.

It was the kind of data hitherto reserved for sports scientists and professional coaches.

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Johnathan Thurston managed to reduce his heart rate before a crucial conversion

The project – the result of a two-year partnership between National Rugby League (NRL) and analytics company Catapult Sports – was intended to pave the way for a new era of fan involvement.

“With this advanced technology, viewers will be able to access new insights into how the game is played and it will no doubt further highlight the unbelievable athletic qualities of the best of the best in rugby league,” says David Silverton, NRL head of strategy.

Cameras have tracked player speed and distance in football and rugby for some time, but this doesn’t tell the whole story, argues Catapult’s Karl Hogan, global head of league and data partnerships.

“Wearable data provides much more physical data such as stop/starts, impacts, changes of direction, jumps, dives, plus much more. These are all then aggregated into a score.

“Say you have two players running the same distance but player B changes his direction twice, jumps to head a ball and makes a tackle during the distance.

“They’ve run the same distance but player B’s score will be much higher.”

Live data analytics is also integral to cycling these days and helping to bring fans even closer to the action.

At this year’s Tour De France, data from a GPS transponder installed under each saddle is being combined with external data, such as the gradient of hills and weather conditions, to provide live speed, position, distance between riders, and the composition of groups within the race, amongst other insights.

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Tour de France fans now have access to reams of performance data

Fans can access all this data by web, app and television, thanks to a tie-up between the Tour de France and Dimension Data.

Applying machine learning and predictive analytics to the data can then be used to forecast likely winners, taking into account all the many variables, from road gradient to headwind strength, humidity to relative speed.

“We’ve created complex algorithms using historical data collated from our live tracking of bikes over the last two years,” says Scott Gibson, Dimension Data’s group executive of digital practice, “as well as rider performances, stage profiles, and race statistics across all UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale] races over the past five years.”

The data analytics platform is able to learn from these algorithms and combine these insights with the live data being received.

And Dimension has an impressive track record of predicting winners, with 75% of the group winners coming from a selection of five potential victors chosen by the system.

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The moment Mark Cavendish (far left) had a crash on stage four of the Tour de France

There was one unfortunate exception, however: on 4 July Dimension Data’s own Mark Cavendish was involved in an horrendous crash that brought his Tour to an abrupt end after he suffered a broken shoulder.

“We’d predicted he’d win the stage, but you can’t predict a crash,” says Mr Gibson.

“We never set out to create a perfect model for race predictions – for a live sporting event, that would be impossible and would detract from the exciting and dynamic nature of the experience.

“While a machine can learn from historical data and create an informed view on what might happen next, some scenarios are simply not possible to predict.”

More Technology of Business

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TV channel Eurosport is also trying hard to enhance the fan experience with the aid of live data.

It has partnered with software provider CA Technologies to create a “second screen” app that viewers can refer to as a complement to the TV coverage.

It was rolled out during its coverage of Giro d’Italia cycling race earlier this year, and is also being used for the Tour de France.

Fans are treated to interactive features, analytics tools, a live interactive map, GPS positioning, and constantly updated rider data, such as altitude, speed, power, cadence and heart rate.

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West Bromwich Albion players train with fitness trackers, but what about live in-game data?

“While television remains the most popular way to watch major sporting events, second-screen experiences enabled through apps have become increasingly important to viewers,” says Lauren Flaherty, chief marketing officer at CA Technologies.

And this integration of live data analysis into sport is a trend that’s likely to continue, says Alex Fenton, associate director for Salford University’s sport industry collaboration zone.

“The technology and accuracy will continue to improve and new generations of coaches will increasingly adopt the idea of using data and insight.

“Equally, there will be a place for gamification and live data,” he says.

So could live streaming of player data during games come to other sports, such as football?

The UK’s Premier League says it has no plans to introduce it, but as the technology improves and fans enjoy its benefits in other sports, pressure will surely begin to grow.

Whether the pampered sports stars themselves will appreciate this extra level of fan scrutiny remains to be seen.

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

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Kodi magazine 'directs readers to pirate content'

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The Complete Guide to Kodi is on sale at a number of retailers

A British magazine is directing readers to copyright-infringing software, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) has said.

Kodi is a free, legal media player for computers but software add-ons that in some cases make it possible to download pirated content.

The Complete Guide to Kodi magazine instructs readers on how to download such add-ons.

Dennis Publishing has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment.

The magazine is available at a number of retailers, including WH Smith, Waterstones and Amazon and was spotted on sale by cyber-security researcher Kevin Beaumont.

It repeatedly warns readers of the dangers of accessing pirated content online, but one article lists a series of software packages alongside screenshots promoting “free TV”, “popular albums” and “world sport”.

“Check before you stream and use them at your own risk,” the guide says, before adding that readers to stay “on the right side of the law”.

Police discussions

A spokesman for Fact said the body was working with the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) as it made enquiries.

“We are fully aware of this magazine and have already been in communication with Dennis Publishing regarding our concerns that it signposts consumers to copyright infringing add-ons,” said Kieron Sharp, chief executive of Fact.

“[…] it is concerning that the magazine’s content provides information to consumers on add-ons that would potentially allow criminality to take place,” he added.

In April, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that selling devices pre-configured with add-ons allowing access to pirated content is illegal, and that streaming such content was also against the law.

Two of the add-ons listed in the article are on a banned list maintained by the Kodi developers.

“We don’t support piracy add-ons and so we don’t like the idea of someone selling a magazine encouraging people to use them,” said Nate Bentzen, Kodi’s community and project manager.

“I am a bit surprised anyone is still selling a magazine like this physically, given all the lawsuits and the recent EU court decision,” he added.

WHSmith declined to comment but the BBC understands that the newsagent has no plans to stop sales of the magazine.

In February, it was reported that five people had been arrested and accused of selling set-top boxes with modified versions of Kodi allowing them to stream subscription football matches, TV channels and films for free.

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BMW 'favouring Oxford' to build new electric Mini

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Workers at the Cowley plant, where BMW makes Minis, had been on strike

BMW’s Oxford factory is the favoured location for building an electric version of the Mini, sources have claimed.

Two sources told Reuters the company is leaning towards the UK plant, where it has invested heavily in recent years.

The company makes about 60% of its approximately 360,000 compact cars at the Cowley factory.

A BMW spokeswoman said: “A final decision has not been taken.”

As well as Oxford, the company has built up an alternative manufacturing base in the Netherlands amid concerns about Brexit.

Reuters said its sources were “familiar with the company’s thinking” and a final decision is due in September.

‘Lose its relevance’

Between 2012 and 2015, BMW Group invested £750m to upgrade manufacturing sites in Oxford, Hams Hall and Swindon.

One source said: “If Mini became a fully electric brand in the long run, and Oxford only knew how to build combustion-engine variants, the plant would lose its relevance.”

In March, the head of BMW in the UK, Ian Robertson, said the UK was “in a strong position but it’s not the only production facility we have”.

The company said it could also build the vehicle at a plant in the Netherlands, where a plug-in hybrid version of the Mini is already being built, or a plant in Regensburg, Germany.

The threat of further strikes at the Oxford plant ended last month when Unite members accepted a revised offer over the closure of their final salary pension scheme.

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Google Maps adds the International Space Station

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Street View allows users to move around 17 different areas in the space station

The International Space Station has become the first “off planet” addition to Google Maps’ Street View facility.

Astronauts helped capture 360-degree panoramas of the insides of the ISS modules, as well as views down to the Earth below.

Some of the photography features pop-up text descriptions, marking the first time such annotations have appeared on the Maps platform.

This is not the first time 360-degree imagery has been captured beyond Earth.

In 2015, the European Space Agency published its own interactive tour of the ISS. And last year Nasa repurposed images captured by its Pathfinder mission to Mars to create clips suitable for virtual reality headsets.

However, one of the benefits of Google’s technology is that it should give members of the public an improved sense of freedom of movement and a greater choice of viewpoints than had been possible before.

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The windows of the ISS’s Cupola provide views down to Earth

The tech giant said it hoped to inspire the public to further explore the science and engineering involved in space exploration.

“Every [ISS] component had to be flown on a space shuttle or rocket and constructed and connected in space, and it had to be done with such precision that it formed a hermetic environment to support life,” project manager Alice Liu told the BBC.

“That is an engineering marvel that people should care about and know about.”

Bungee cords

The firm said creating the latest Street View expansion had posed unique challenges.

Past efforts – including capturing underwater views of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and elevated sights from Peru’s Machu Picchu citadel – involved transporting specialist camera equipment to the locations.

But the cost and certification processes that would have been required to do this for the ISS meant it was not practical this time, nor could the US company send its own staff to take the photographs.

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The tour includes access to the vehicle used to bring cargo on board the space centre

Instead, it had to rely on the astronauts already on board the ISS, who used digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras they already had to hand.

“Typically, to stitch panoramic images we take a camera and mount it on a fixed mount and rotate it around,” explained Ms Liu.

“In space there were no tripods, so we ended up using a really simple set-up: a pair of bungee cords strapped in the module in a criss-cross fashion, so that the crossing point defined the centre of where the camera needed to be.

“The astronauts had to take the pictures at the defined angles and float around the camera to complete the set of images.”

It took up to 24 such images to create a single panorama.

The astronauts had to fit the activity round their other duties and, from first snap to last image download to Google, the initiative lasted four months.

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Google has annotated points of interest on the panoramas

“There are a lot of obstacles up there, and we had limited time to capture the imagery,” recalled astronaut Thomas Pesquet in a blog.

“Oh, and there’s that whole zero gravity thing.”

The notes that pop up as the user moves among the station’s 15 modules provide background information about the equipment on display, and are intended to help make sense of what Google acknowledges can be a “confusing” experience.

Ms Liu confirmed the annotation technology could be rolled out to some of her firm’s other Street View locations in the future.

“But we are not planning on using it as a form of advertising,” she added.

While the ISS tour might not provide Google the opportunity to make money in itself, one expert suggested it would help the firm keep its mapping products one step ahead of Apple and other rivals.

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The astronauts used cameras that were already on board the ISS to take the photos

“This feels like a cute marketing exercise that will keep Maps and Street View front and centre in consumers’ minds,” commented Ben Wood from the CCS tech consultancy.

“It adds a dimension of fun and one could argue also education, as it’s a tool you could see schools adopting if they are doing projects on space.”

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AlphaBay and Hansa dark web markets shut down

Two of the largest dark web marketplaces have been shut down following an 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.

Police in the US and Europe collaborated on the operation.

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

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

More to follow…

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Dark net guns shipped in old printers

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Guns are being sold via dark net sites and shipped hidden in old printers or stereos

Criminals and terrorists are using the so-called dark net to buy weapons, a new study has suggested.

Those selling the illicit weapons often disassembled and sent them in different packages or embedded them in old stereos or printers, the report found.

Researchers found that firearms and related goods generated 136 sales per month and a monthly revenue of $80,000 (£62,000).

The firearms trade has gained attention following recent terrorist attacks.

The dark net is a part of the internet that requires specific software to access, in order for users to remain anonymous.

While the trade was unlikely to fuel large-scale terrorist operations, it had the potential to become the platform of choice for “lone-wolf” terrorists to obtain weapons and ammunition, the report said.

Non-profit organisation Rand Corporation Europe, working with Manchester University, found 52 unique vendors selling weapons or similar items such as ammunition, explosives, or components such as silencers across 811 listings and 18 markets.

Police believe the 2016 Munich shooting, which left nine people dead, used weapons purchased on the dark net.

Lone-wolf attacks

Lead author of the research, Giacomo Persi Paoli, said: “Recent high-profile cases have shown that the threat posed by individuals or small groups obtaining weapons illegally from the dark web is real.

“The ability to not only arm criminals and terrorists, who can make virtually anonymous purchases, but also vulnerable and fixated individuals is perhaps the most dangerous aspect.”

Guns account for less than 1% of items sold on the platform, with its main trade being in narcotics.

Nevertheless, the volume being sold “can be considered sufficiently high to be a cause of concern for policy makers and law enforcement agencies”, said the report.

The study involved collecting data from 12 dark net marketplaces during a week in September 2016.

Most of those selling guns were based in the US, but Europe was the most popular destination for the weapons they sold.

Judith Aldridge, co-investigator on the study, said: “In very simple terms, anyone can connect to the dark web and within minutes have access to a variety of vendors offering their products, which are most often illegal.

“The dark web enables illegal trade at a global level, removing some of the geographical barriers between vendors and buyers, while increasing the personal safety of both buyers and sellers through a series of anonymising features that obscure their identities.”

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OnePlus admits 911 emergency call glitch

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Chief executive Pete Lau with the OnePlus 5

Phonemaker OnePlus has admitted a glitch in some of its devices prevented people making calls to the emergency services.

The issue was highlighted on Reddit, where a customer showed their OnePlus 5 phone restarting when a 911 emergency call was placed.

Others said calls to 999 in the UK and 112 in Europe were also affected by the glitch.

OnePlus said it would distribute a software update to resolve the problem.

The Chinese phonemaker promotes itself as a company that sells high-end smartphones at low prices. Its latest device, the OnePlus 5, was released in June.

On Tuesday, Reddit user Seattle_Horn posted: “I had to dial 911 on my OnePlus 5 yesterday (saw a building on fire a few blocks away) and both times I tried my phone rebooted on me.”

Several contributors added that they had experienced the same problem before or had been able to replicate it.

Some said they would return their phones to the company because the glitch could “cost lives”.

OnePlus said in a statement “We have been in touch with the customer and have tested a software update that has resolved the issue.

“We will be rolling out the software update shortly.”

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Despacito breaks global streaming record

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Media captionLuis Fonsi’s Despacito has become the most-streamed song of all time.

Luis Fonsi’s Despacito has become the most-streamed song of all time, just six months after it was released.

The hit single has been played 4.6 billion times across all streaming services, overtaking Justin Bieber’s Sorry, which previously held the title.

“What’s happened with this song is just insane,” said Fonsi, who hails from Puerto Rico and sings in Spanish.

“I don’t want to use the word accident because I was trying to write a hit, but I didn’t plan for it to cross over.

“I just wanted to make people dance.”

The 39-year-old said the global success of his song – which has reached number one in 35 countries, including the UK – gave him hope in the current political climate.

“I come from Puerto Rico and I live in Miami. We’re living in an interesting time right now when people want to divide us. They want to build walls.

“And for a song to bring people and cultures together, that’s what makes me proud.”

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Universal Music

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The original version of the song was entirely in Spanish, juxtaposing Fonsi’s melodic chorus with Daddy Yankee’s more gritty, urban verses

Most streamed songs of all time
Artist Song Streams
Luis Fonsi Despacito (ft Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber) 4.6bn
Justin Bieber Sorry 4.38bn
Ed Sheeran Shape of You 4.07bn

Despacito is a sun-bleached slice of sensual reggaeton. The title translates as “slowly”, referring to the speed of Fonsi’s seduction technique.

It hit number one around Latin America when it was released in January, but only caught fire in the English-speaking world after Justin Bieber heard the song in a nightclub and asked to add a verse.

His version of the song – known as Despacito (Remix) – has become a phenomenon on streaming services, most notably Spotify and Apple Music. It is already the fourth most-played video of all time on YouTube, where it is rapidly closing in on the top three, all of which are years old.

The head of Universal Music Group, Sir Lucian Grainge, said the success of Despacito showed how streaming was democratising the music market.

“Streaming has allowed a song with a different beat, from a different culture, in a different language, to become this juggernaut of success and pleasure,” he told the BBC.

“The industry has predominantly been English-speaking artists for the last 50 years [but] streaming will continue to open up music from Latin America artists globally.

“Anything and everywhere is up for grabs.”

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Justin Bieber liked the song so much, he offered to perform on a remix

Of course, records will continue to be broken alongside the growth of streaming services – which give users access to a vast library of on-demand music for a monthly fee.

In March, Spotify announced it had attracted 50 million subscribers. Apple Music, which is yet to reach its second birthday, has already attracted 27 million paying customers; while Google Play, Amazon Unlimited, Deezer and YouTube and dozens of others have contributed to Despacito’s success.

Critics might point out that the song would never have achieved such visibility without Bieber’s contribution, but Sir Lucian was candid about how Universal had harnessed the star’s brand power.

“Bringing in Justin Bieber meant that we could take something that was well on its way, and really take it to heights that would have been perceived as unimaginable when the song was written,” he told the BBC.

“We were at one level, and he helped us get to the next.”

Fonsi also paid tribute to Bieber’s contribution, and reflected on his breathtaking success in a phone interview from Lisbon.

Hi Luis! How does it feel to have the most-streamed song in history?

It’s been an incredible ride. Pretty much from the start it has just been crazy. Obviously it was a snowball effect. It started first with my more traditional market – the Latin American market. But we had an instant response. I got phone calls congratulating me from people who don’t normally call.

Is it a source of pride that Despacito is predominantly a Spanish-language song?

Yeah, that’s the beauty behind it. The original version, which I did just with Daddy Yankee, was in Spanish then four months later, Justin Bieber jumps in [and] adds a verse at the beginning in English.

It was his choice to keep the chorus in Spanish – because we had an English lyric for it – but he wanted to stay true to the original version.

Now I’m getting videos from different parts of the world, listening to people trying to nail the Spanish, trying to learn a bit of Spanish through the song.

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Before the global success of Despacito, Fonsi had scored six number one singles in Latin America

Have you forgiven Justin for butchering the song when he performed it live? (The singer sang “burrito” and “dorito” instead of the Spanish lyrics)

Yeah, you know, it’s not his language. If he was saying he could speak Spanish and he couldn’t, I’d be like, “Hey man”. But I don’t think he’s ever come out and said he’s a Spanish-speaker. He just wanted to do the song because he loved it. And I think you have to tip your hat to him, because he took the time to phonetically learn the chorus in Spanish.

I know that that takes time [because] I’ve actually done the song in different languages myself. I’ve just done the song in Portuguese, and Portuguese is very similar to Spanish, but it was very hard for me to nail that version. And if you were to ask me to sing it now in Portuguese, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start!

So I think we just have to let it go.

Why has it become so popular?

This is a question I’ve been asked a lot but, for some reason, I don’t have the perfect answer for it. I think it’s the sum of lots of little things.

Obviously, it’s a very catchy melody. The way the chorus starts “Des-Pa-Ci-To” is very easy to remember. And it’s almost impossible not to move when you hear the track, even if you’re not a dancer. And obviously you add Justin Bieber to that, and it brings another angle to all of this.

But I wish I knew exactly what the secret was, so I could apply it to all my future songs!

What is the strangest place you’ve heard it?

It probably hasn’t been anywhere too strange – but you walk into a restaurant, or you’re at a traffic light and the car next to you is listening to it… It’s just insane! I can’t help but smile.

Just today, I heard a Hebrew version of Despacito. Yesterday, I had some friends who were visiting Croatia and it was playing there. People are sending me all kinds of different versions.

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Fonsi and Daddy Yankee performed the song at the Billboard Latin Music Awards in April

Maybe you should edit them together – like Pharrell did with Happy.

Yeah, you know what? I’m compiling a bunch of footage and audio from all the different versions that have been done in all the different languages and I want to edit it together. It’s so amazing. It makes me proud that the world’s coming together.

I come from Puerto Rico and I live in Miami. We’re living in an interesting time right now when people want to divide us, they want to build walls, and for a song to bring people and cultures together, I think that’s what makes me proud. Music has that power. It might sound cheesy but I do believe music brings us together.

Did you see that Canadian PM Justin Trudeau put you on his summer playlist?

Oh really, I didn’t know that! That guy has good taste!

How can you ever top something like this?

Oh, you don’t. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I don’t want to be a pessimist about it. I don’t want to be negative about it. But my next song, I can’t approach it thinking, “How do I beat Despacito?”

Do you really expect to win the lottery twice? We just have to be grateful for what we’ve done and go forward.

Luis Fonsi was speaking to BBC Music’s Kev Geoghegan.

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Google to add 'news feed' to website and app

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

Google is adding a personalised Facebook-style news feed to its homepage – 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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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.

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Newcastle City Council admits adoption data leak

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The council said it was contacting those involved by phone and letter

The details of thousands of children and their adoptive parents were leaked in a party invitation sent out by Newcastle City Council.

Information about 2,743 individuals was sent to 77 people in an email attachment by mistake last month, the authority said.

The details included names, addresses and birthdates of the adopted children.

The council blamed the data breach on “human error”, adding it had taken steps to contact all those involved.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is investigating and has the power to levy a fine of up to £500,000.

In a statement, the council said: “On 15 June 2017, an employee in the council’s adoption team accidentally attached an internal spreadsheet to emails inviting adoptive parents to the council’s annual adoption summer party.

“The email and attachment were sent to 77 people.

“This attachment contained personal details relating to 2,743 individuals, comprising current and former adoptees, parents and social workers who had been involved with these families.

“The spreadsheet included personal information such as names, addresses and the birthdates of the adopted children.”

‘Truly sorry’

A helpline for those who think they may have been affected has been set up and relevant regulators informed.

A review of data protection across the authority has also been launched.

It is understood the member of staff who sent the email no longer works for the council.

Director of People, Ewen Weir, said: “I am truly sorry for the distress caused to all those affected.

“We will work closely with the affected families and individuals to support them at this trying time.

“This breach appears to have been caused by human error and a failure to follow established procedures.

“We are conducting a thorough review of our processes to identify what changes we can make to ensure that this never happens again.”

Anyone involved with Newcastle’s Adoption Service who has concerns has been asked to call the council’s dedicated helpline on (0191) 211 5562.

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Virgin complaint bans Sky broadband ad

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Sky has had another TV broadband advert banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) following a complaint from rival Virgin Media.

The advert featured the cast of The Secret Life of Pets, with one dog becoming frustrated with its broadband connectivity.

Virgin Media challenged a claim in the ad that Sky broadband was “super reliable”.

The ASA drew on data from Ofcom to uphold the complaint.

It concluded that the ad could “mislead consumers” because it implied that all of Sky’s broadband packages were super-reliable.

“That is not the case for Sky’s ADSL2+ package,” the ASA said in its summing up.

A similar Sky ad, featuring Lego Batman, was banned for misleadingly claiming to offer the UK’s lowest-priced fibre.

Tit for tat

Complaining about one another’s adverts seems to have become standard practice in the internet service provider world.

In 2016, Virgin Media had a broadband ad featuring Usain Bolt banned over misleading claims about broadband speeds after BT and Sky complained to the ASA.

And a BT advert fronted by actor Ryan Reynolds was banned after Virgin complained that it implied BT’s 52Mbps service was the fastest maximum speed service for the lowest-priced package in the UK.

A spokesman for the ASA said the organisation attempted to dissuade the telecoms industry from “tit for tat complaints” by asking them to provide evidence that they had approached their competitor and tried to resolve the matter between themselves first.

“It is a ferociously competitive sector and a lot of scrutiny is given to competitors’ advertising, but we only act when there is a problem under the rules,” he told the BBC.

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Social networks 'lead to anxiety and fear in young'

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A life led online can cause young people to feel anxious, inadequate and afraid suggests new report

Research from anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label suggests social media is making youngsters more anxious.

Forty per cent said they felt bad if nobody liked their selfie and 35% said their confidence was directly linked to the number of followers they had.

One in three said they lived in fear of cyber-bullying, with appearance cited as the most likely topic for abuse.

One expert said children were growing up in “a culture of antagonism”.

The survey, of more than 10,000 young people aged 12 to 20, suggested that cyber-bullying is widespread, with nearly 70% of youngsters admitting to being abusive towards another person online and 17% claiming to have been bullied online.

Nearly half (47%) said they wouldn’t discuss bad things in their lives on social media and many offered only an edited version of their lives.

“There is a trend towards people augmenting their personalities online and not showing the reality,” said Ditch the Label’s chief executive Liam Hackett.

It found that Instagram was the vehicle most used for mean comments.

Mr Hackett said: “Cyber-bullying continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing young people.

“Not only is the internet redefining the climate of bullying, but also it is having clear impacts upon the identity, behaviours and personality of its young users.”

He called on social networks to put more resources into policing the comments people post online and responding to complaints in a more timely manner.

His views were echoed by Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, who also called for a government ombudsman to be set up to mediate between the social network firms and children who are having problems.

She also called for “compulsory digital citizenship classes” in schools.

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Nearly half the children surveyed said they wouldn’t discuss bad things going on in their lives on social media

The findings appear to contradict research from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) earlier this month that suggested cyber-bullying was relatively rare.

The OII research – which concentrated on 15-year-olds – found that, while 30% reported regular bullying, only 3% said it happened both off and online.

The huge variation of findings between surveys is often down to how questions are worded, said Lauren Seager-Smith, chief executive of charity Kidscape,

“This survey paints a bleak picture but there is a great variance in these studies. Part of this is about how you ask the question, who you ask and what age they are.”

She said that she was not surprised by Ditch the Label’s findings.

“We are living in a culture of antagonism. That sadly is the climate our children are growing up in,” she said.

“The jury is out on quite how damaging social media is and whether we all need to spend less time on such networks.”

But, she added, adults also needed to think about their usage.

“Often parents are equally addicted and they have to ask what impact that is having on family life. It could be time for them to say that there is more to life than social networks and the glossy picture of life that it often shows.”

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Hands-on with the sci-fi shooter Destiny 2 Beta

Destiny 2 – the sequel to developers Bungie’s epic sci-fi shooter, has a pre-release online beta, where fans can get a taster of how the new game plays and some of its new features.

The full game is set to be released in September 2017.

While popular, the first Destiny received extensive downloadable upgrades to improve the experience.

Will the developers get it right straight out of the gate with the sequel?

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak got hands on with the beta.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

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Petya cyber-attack still disrupting firms weeks later

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The Petya cyber-attack has had serious consequences for some businesses

Some businesses hit by malware in a cyber-attack that began on 27 June are still struggling to return operations to normal, the BBC has learned.

Nuance Communications, which provides transcription software for medical professionals, has slowly been bringing its products back online.

But one IT worker told the BBC that two US hospitals were still having issues.

A security researcher said the situation was “alarming” but praised the transparency of some companies.

The IT worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We have been waiting for [Nuance Communications’] iChart [product] since they were first hit with the ransomware and are still waiting for it to come back.

“We will likely have to move to another product or even another vendor to get the same type of benefit.”

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Nuance provides software that helps doctors transcribe medical notes

A spokesman for Nuance Communications declined to comment on the matter, but directed the BBC to an update from 5 July.

On Monday, logistics company FedEx said customers of its TNT Express arm were still experiencing “widespread” service and invoicing delays.

Port problems

Shipping giant Maersk was also affected by Petya.

Some port terminals managed by its subsidiary APM Terminals had to be shut down in the wake of the attack.

Maersk had restored all of its major systems and customer interfaces, a spokesman told the BBC.

But he added: “There are some delays on some processes due to manual workarounds or backlogs that needed to be cleared.

“In some cases our turn time to customers might be longer than usual, but we are nevertheless providing them with the services they expect from us.”

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Some of Maersk’s port terminals had to be shut down briefly, following the cyber-attack

There have been financial costs, too.

Some affected companies, including Mondelez International – which owns chocolate-maker Cadbury – and consumer health manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser, said the effect of the attack would deduct a few percentage points from their quarterly sales figures.

French construction giant Saint-Gobain, which recorded €39.1bn (£34.7bn) in sales in 2016, said sales in the first half of the current financial year would probably drop by about 1%.

“On one hand, it is alarming to see large multinational corporations still feeling the impact and attempting to recover systems,” said security researcher Kevin Beaumont.

“On the other hand, it is good to see some of the businesses communicating so openly about the problems they are experiencing.”

Both Mr Beaumont and Mikko Hypponen, at cyber-security company F-Secure, have praised Maersk’s openness.

The wave of malware infections that unfolded during the Petya cyber-attack appeared to begin in Ukraine at the end of June.

Since then, about £8,000 of ransom payments in Bitcoin have been moved from a digital wallet – but it is still not known who was behind the attack.

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Google Glass smart eyewear returns

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Glass Enterprise Edition will be sold by software developers who have partnered with Google

Google is to sell a revamped version of its smart glasses to businesses, more than two years after the original version of the product was cancelled.

The company said Glass Enterprise Edition had improved battery life and felt more comfortable during long-term wear than before.

However, it still resembles the original model, with a small see-through display and built-in camera.

It will face competition from Microsoft’s HoloLens among others.

Many had assumed the project had been cancelled after the executive in charge, Tony Fadell, resigned last year.

However, parent company Alphabet’s X division continued to develop the technology and has now revealed its efforts in a post on the news site Medium.

“Workers in many fields, like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy,” wrote project lead Jay Kothari.

“That’s why we’ve spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customised software and business solutions for Glass for people in these fields.”

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Google says its smart eyewear can make workers more efficient

Mr Koathri revealed that logistics workers at the delivery company DHL, engineers at General Electric and medics at Dignity Health had been among those secretly using the eyewear over recent months.

Wired magazine added that those involved had had to promise not to reveal the existence of Glass Enterprise Edition and pose with the old version in any photos showing them using the eyewear at work.

Improvements over the earlier Explorer Edition include:

  • a more powerful processor
  • an eight megapixel camera, up from 5MP before
  • the camera button now doubles as a way to detach the electronics from their frame, making it easier to attach them to prescription and safety glasses
  • the battery life lasts for about eight hours of typical use excluding video streaming, up from about five hours before
  • more robust wi-fi connectivity

Google sold the original prototype edition for £1,000.

This time, the product will be sold via a range of specialised software companies, which are bundling it with their respective services.

Germany-based Ubimax – which makes software for logistics and manufacturing workers – told the BBC it would charge about 1,500 euros ($1,735; £1,335) per unit on top of rolling fees for its own solutions.

“It makes perfect sense to target businesses,” said Chris Green from the technology consultancy Lewis.

“While the original iteration of Google Glass had questionable consumer applications, we are already seeing that there is huge potential for augmented reality particularly in things like manufacturing.

“For example, a floor worker can get a single view of all the sensor data across a production line, from data about output and wear and tear of components, to where the bottlenecks are, all in a way they wouldn’t be able to do just by wandering the line normally.”

But in the period Google left the market, other companies, including Vuzix, Meta and Epson, have developed their own augmented reality eyewear targeted at businesses.

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Media captionDave Lee examined the potential of Microsoft’s HoloLens tech in March 2016

And Microsoft began selling a “developer edition” of its more advanced – and more expensive – HoloLens augmented reality headset last year.

It benefits from superimposing graphics over both eyes and can run more complex apps, since it is powered by a Windows 10 PC rather than a smartphone.

However, at present, HoloLens offers only two to three hours of active use.


By Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent

Somewhere in a drawer at home is one of the most exciting – yet frustrating – pieces of technology I have ever used.

I wore Google Glass for something like six weeks as a journalistic experiment.

It flashed up news alerts and social media messages, it helped me navigate, but mostly it was a very handy wearable camera – capturing everything from my dentist leaning over me to a pitch invasion as Brentford won promotion.

But when I stopped wearing the device, it was a relief – from the constant abuse from friends, family and colleagues who thought, correctly, that I looked like a fool.

A few also thought it an invasion of their privacy, though the flashing red light made taking pictures a less covert activity than shooting with a smartphone.

In retrospect, Google’s decision to launch Glass as a consumer product was a clumsy error, driven by a desire for positive PR rather than any business case.

In the enterprise world, where Microsoft has been quietly developing its HoloLens headset, this kind of device makes far more sense.

Somehow, the aesthetics of putting something hi-tech on your face in a work setting are completely different.

But I am wondering whether it is time to retrieve the Glass from my drawer and have another go.

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