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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 11th Apr 2018

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Part of The Cambridge Analytica scandal

Mark Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony for Wednesday’s congressional hearing has been posted online. The seven-page statement starts with an apology from Zuckerberg, who says Facebook failed to take a broad enough view of its responsibilities. “That was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” he says. “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Zuckerberg will be testifying before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday after he faces another hearing in the Senate on Tuesday. This testimony covers a lot of familiar ground, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency’s misinformation campaign. As Josh Constine at TechCrunch points out, it does offer some new information about the Russia-linked APT28 hacking group. Facebook says it detected and shut down accounts related to APT28 over the summer of 2016.

The real meat of Wednesday’s hearing will come from Zuckerberg answering lawmakers’ questions about privacy, election interference, and Facebook’s future. But this testimony will set the stage for that showdown.

Mark Zuckerberg House of Representatives testimony, April 11th by Adi Robertson on Scribd

Source: theverge.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 10th Apr 2018

Image result for youtube music video

YouTube's music video for the hit song Despacito, which has had over five billion views, has been hacked.

More than a dozen other artists, including Shakira, Selena Gomez, Drake and Taylor Swift are also affected. The original clips had been posted by Vevo.

Despacito has been removed, but its cover image had shown a group of people wearing masks and pointing guns.

The hackers, calling themselves Prosox and Kuroi'sh, had written "Free Palestine" underneath the videos.

Several of the clips remain live at time of writing.

Both YouTube and the music video hosting service Vevo have been contacted for comment.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 10th Apr 2018

Image result for telephone handset with messaging

Decoys spend hours conversing with individuals on messaging apps, with transcripts then printed off and handed to police as evidence

Evidence from so-called paedophile hunter groups was used to charge suspects at least 150 times last year, a BBC investigation has found.

A Freedom of Information request, sent to every police force in England and Wales, showed a seven-fold increase in the use of such evidence from 2015.

Twenty-nine of the forty-three forces approached (67%) provided data.

Despite this, the National Police Chiefs Council say the groups' tactics present "significant risks".

Tracked down

The online groups use what they call "decoys" to pose as underage children and wait to be contacted by adults.

They then converse privately with adults and identify those attempting to groom young people.

Individuals are then tracked down, the confrontation is often streamed live on social media and police are called.

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A 'decoy' - 'Sarah' of Predator Exposure

"They [the targets] are always made aware of the child's age at the start of the chat, so there's no misconception about how old the child is," Sarah said.

"We class ourselves as child protectors - if a potential predator is talking to my decoy, they aren't talking to a real child, that's the way I look at it."

Sarah told the BBC she spent hours replying to messages which often contain explicit language, photos and videos.

"I set a new decoy up one night, by the next morning I had had 180 friend requests, mostly from men," she said.

"We're only touching the tip of the iceberg, it's right across social media. Even if we just take 20 out, those 20 aren't going to be child rapists."

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It is thought about 75 active "paedophile hunter" groups are operating across the UK.

Police warn the groups' actions may interfere with surveillance operations and "evidence" they gather may be illegally obtained and therefore excluded from a prosecution.

One group, Predator Exposure, was founded in Leeds in 2016 and claims to have supplied evidence leading to the conviction of more than 20 sex crime offenders in the past 12 months.

Image captionA recruitment event was held in a pub in Bradford to find volunteer "decoys"

Speaking at a volunteer recruitment day at a pub in Bradford, ex-convict Phil Hoban, who started the group, said: "The police can say 'we don't like you doing this, we don't like you doing that', but we're going to continue."

Mr Hoban served 15 months in prison in 2005 for his part in a robbery where a cash machine was stolen in East Yorkshire.

He said his group, which has seven members, staged the enrolment drive for new "decoys" in order to deal with the growing demand.

Potential volunteers were told the role would take up a great deal of spare time and an interest in child protection was required.

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The data

Each police force in England and Wales was asked by the BBC to say how many people had been charged after evidence was given by paedophile hunters, with 29 out of 43 able to give three years' worth of figures.

The supplied data showed a greater than seven-fold rise in two years - from 20 in 2015 to 150 in 2017.

Of the police forces that responded, almost half (47%) of the cases of the crime of meeting a child following sexual grooming used evidence from so-called paedophile hunting groups in 2017.

The data only confirms that the evidence was used in some part. It does not suggest that the vigilantes' actions were solely responsible for charges being brought.

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Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, of West Yorkshire Police, urged those who are involved in paedophile hunter groups to bring them evidence but to then "let us deal with it".

"It does present significant risks when these groups confront individuals, first of all for themselves - these are often very high-octane, emotional situations," she said.

"There's significant risk involved for the individuals that they are confronting, not least because it might sometimes be an innocent member of the public or it might actually disrupt a wider undercover policing investigation that we've got ongoing."

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, from the National Police Chiefs' Council, said: "The increase in these groups is symptomatic of the increasing scale of child sexual abuse that police are dealing with.

"It reinforces the need for technology companies to do more to prevent offenders using their platforms to prey on children and for children to be educated about healthy relationships and staying safe online."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 9th Apr 2018

The regulations to bring into force Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) are now law, and digital VAT returns will be required from 1 April 2019.

MTDfV is the first phase of HMRC’s landmark Making Tax Digital (MTD) regime, which will ultimately require taxpayers to move to a fully digital tax system. Regulations have now been issued which set out the requirements for MTDfV.

Under the new rules, businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) must keep digital records for VAT purposes and provide their VAT return information to HMRC using MTD functional compatible software.

The new rules have effect from 1 April 2019, where a taxpayer has a ‘prescribed accounting period’ which begins on that date, and otherwise from the first day of a taxpayer’s first prescribed accounting period beginning after 1 April 2019.

HMRC is piloting MTDfV during 2018, ahead of its introduction in April 2019. Keeping digital records and making quarterly updates will not be mandatory for taxes other than VAT before April 2020, although businesses below the VAT threshold which have voluntarily registered for VAT can opt to join the scheme.

As with electronic VAT filing at present, there will be some exemptions from MTD for VAT. However, the exemption categories are tightly-drawn and unlikely to be applicable to most VAT registered businesses.

Keeping digital records will not mean businesses are mandated to use digital invoices and receipts but the actual recording of supplies made and received must be digital. It is likely that third party commercial software will be required. Software will not be available from HMRC. The use of spreadsheets will be allowed, but they will have to be combined with add-on software to meet HMRC’s requirements.

Internet link: GOV.UK statutory instrument

Source: dainsresources.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 9th Apr 2018

'Marsbees' developed in Japan will enable NASA to go where no man has gone before

NASA plans to use swarms of robotic flying bees to help explore Mars

NASA might be planning to use swarms of robotic bees to help explore Mars.

In what could be sent up to aid the work of the Mars Rover, the robotic bees, called Marsbees, are "robotic flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size with cicada sized wings", NASA said.

Created by a team in Japan, the Marsabees' objective would be to increase the set of possible exploration and science missions on Mars by investigating the feasibility of flapping-wing aerospace architectures in a Martian environment.

The Marsbees are integrated with sensors and wireless communication devices, using a mobile base that would act as a recharging station and main communication centre.

"The swarm of Marsbee can significantly enhance the Mars exploration mission [by] facilitating reconfigurable sensor networks, creating resilient systems, [and] sampling or collecting data using single or collaborative Marsbees," NASA said in a post on its website.

The bees are able to fly thanks to the use of insect-like compliant wings to enhance aerodynamics and a low power design.

"High lift coefficients will be achieved by properly achieving dynamic similarity between the bioinspired insect flight regime and the Mars environment," NASA expalined. 

"Our preliminary numerical results suggest that a bumblebee with a cicada wing can generate sufficient lift to hover in the Martian atmosphere."

The Marsbee also offers benefits over traditional aerospace systems, such as the smaller volume, which designed for the interplanetary spacecraft payload configuration, provides much more flexibility.

The Marsbee is also more robust when it comes to individual system failures because of its relatively small size and the small volume of airspace needed to test the system.

The proposed work combines expertise and talent from the US and Japan. While the University of Alabama team will numerically model, analyse, and optimise a flapping flyer for Martian atmospheric conditions, the Japanese team will apparently develop and test a micro flapping robot, uniquely designed and constructed for the low-density atmosphere on Mars. 

"The objective of Phase I is to determine the wing design, motion, and weight that can hover with optimal power in the Mars atmospheric condition using a high-fidelity numerical model and to assess the hummingbird MAV in the Mars conditions," NASA added.

"The aerodynamic performance of the hummingbird MAV will be assessed in a vacuum chamber with the air density reduced to the Mars density."

Phase II will then assess the Marsbees' maneuverability, wind gust rejection, take-off/landing, power implications, remote sensing, and "mission optimisation".

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 9th Apr 2018

US president reiterates threat of action against online retailer giant Amazon

Trump to take a 'serious look' at Amazon regulation

Donald Trump at a public meeting during the 2016 presidential elections

US President Donald Trump has reiterated his intention of taking action against online retail giant Amazon, revealing that he is taking a "serious look" at regulations with the intention of addressing what he regards as unfair business advantages enjoyed by the company.

Speaking to journalists aboard Air Force One on Thursday, President Trump said that he will spend more time exploring ways that his administration can regulate the e-commerce giant.

According to Reuters, Trump has committed to drawing up policies to prevent online retailers like Amazon from growing too powerful.

While traveling to Washington from West Virginia, Trump claimed that the company is not paying its fair share of sales sax and becoming too powerful, so to speak.

Trump was also asked about the kinds of regulations he might be able to introduce. He replied: "We're going to take a very serious look at that."

One unfair advantage that online outlets have over physical bricks-and-mortar stores in the US is sales tax. 

The president said that his government has already spent a significant amount of time investigating the "sales tax situation" and that the topic will be considered by the Supreme Court soon.

On 17 April, nine justices will meet representatives from South Dakota who want the court to overturn a 1992 Supreme Court ruling stating that only physical retail outlets with a presence in a state need to pay sales tax.

Amazon does not actually have links to the case, but it could be affected if the court does overturn its previous ruling in that it would need to pay extra tax.

South Dakota's state government believes that the ruling puts brick-and-mortar retailers at a disadvantage, as they end up paying more tax.

Recently, Trump has been vocal about the growing domination of Amazon and other online companies. His view is that Amazon, in particular, has become too powerful and must be regulated.

"I had my concerns with Amazon long before the election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our postal system as their delivery boy (causing tremendous loss to the US), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!," he tweeted recently. 


Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 4th Apr 2018

Businesses turn to IT specialist like us to help keep their data safe and keep the business running smoothly.

When it comes to security, often the tech is the easy part!

You see, humans are TERRIBLE at choosing passwords.

We’re the worst at it. Really.

A labradoodle with a typewriter could do a better job.

At least they wouldn’t just type 123456 (that’s the world’s most popular password!)

In fairness, we have been subjected to years of terrible advice when it comes to passwords, which perhaps gives the labradoodle an advantage.

Lots of systems force people to change their passwords regularly too, when all the evidence shows that people will use weaker and weaker passwords.

Anyway, here’s the list of last year’s most popular passwords, so if you’re using any of these, it might be time to change!

1. 123456
2. Password
3. 12345678
4. qwerty
5. 12345
6. 123456789
7. letmein
8. 1234567
9. football
10. iloveyou

If you’re worried about what would happen to your business if someone got hold of your passwords, give us a call and we’ll give you some advice…

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 4th Apr 2018

FortniteImage copyrightFORTNITE

Fortnite Battle Royale has added a message to its mobile app telling kids not to play in school.

The game was released on mobile just a few weeks ago but some teachers say it's distracting their students.

One teacher posted on the game's Reddit thread, asking the game's developers if they could "mess with" his students.

The message "Mr Hillman says stop playing in class" now features on a loading screen in the app.

View image on Twitter

K.L. Smith@arCtyC

My favorite thing about working at @EpicGames.

2:00 PM - Mar 30, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy


End of Twitter post by @arCtyC

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In a now deleted Reddit post Mr Hillman wrote: "First, I love your game. My friends from college and I play pretty much every night.

"One problem, since mobile came out my students won't stop playing in class.

"Idk (I don't know) if it's possible, but I told them I'd write you and they didn't believe me. Could you add this to the loading screen for a couple days to mess with them? 'Mr. Hillman says stop playing in class'."

The game features up to 100 players battling to be the last person alive.

Teachers have complained that since its mobile release kids have been playing it during lessons.

Skip Twitter post by @bandinaboy

Nick Shann@bandinaboy

released fortnite mobile which means now my middle school students can play the game they never stop talking about at school behind my back on their phones that are nicer than mine. What a world.

1:39 PM - Mar 20, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy


End of Twitter post by @bandinaboy

Skip Twitter post by @FZN_Fisher

Coach Fisher@FZN_Fisher

When kids play in class.

6:37 PM - Mar 21, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy


End of Twitter post by @FZN_Fisher

Presentational white space

Some schools have blocked the game on their Wi-Fi network, according to students.

Skip Twitter post by @FFreaked


Welp they banned fortnite mobile on our school WiFi LMFAOOO

3:09 PM - Mar 21, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy


End of Twitter post by @FFreaked

The game reached the top of the App Store charts in 47 countries soon after its release, and according to reports made over $1 million (£710,000) from in-app purchases in its first few days.

Mr Hillman's message has been seen by thousands of people since being tweeted by Epic Games community manager KL Smith.

There's been no word from the teacher on whether it's made a difference.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 4th Apr 2018

Image result for 'Send in the drones' to protect soil

Drones could help plug the current gap in inspections, say campaigners

Squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields, a report will say.

A coalition of campaigners complains that the Environment Agency can only check soil on 0.5% of farms each year.

Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost?more than ?1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

The government said it was considering the ideas for combating soil run-off

The proposals come from the Angling Trust, WWF and the Rivers Trust - with support from the RSPB. Their preliminary briefing has been seen by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

The groups say poor farming is the chief cause of the UK's decline in the health of rivers, and a major contributor to flooding.

They calculate that investment in stopping soil loss would pay back many times over.

But, they say, Environment Agency enforcement of soil protection is under-funded, and careless farming in remote fields is often hard to spot.

The challenge is particularly acute in the West Country where many farmers grow maize on steep slopes. The plants are widely spaced and soil left uncovered between them is liable to be flushed away in heavy rains.

Over-stocking livestock is another problem, as hooves compact fields and create a crust which blocks water from seeping into the sub-soil.

In Herefordshire, a trial drone surveillance scheme is said by the report to have worked well to prevent soil loss.

It focuses on maize - and also on potatoes, which exhaust soil and make it more likely to be washed away.

National effort

Under the trial, the Environment Agency shifted its local budget towards drones. Guided by a contour map, it identified the areas of fields most susceptible to losing soil in heavy rain.

The Agency offset the cost of drones by handing their farm advisory role locally to the Wye and Usk Foundation.

Simon Evans, a spokesman for the foundation, told BBC News: "When we started to tackle this problem in 2000 we had lost spawning salmon along the whole length of the English Wye.

"Working with the Agency hasn't only improved soil - it's also benefited fish, because we've now got 65 miles of the Wye with salmon spawning successfully."

Heavy rain can cause the loss of soil

The report will urge ministers to replicate this scheme on a national level.

One of its authors, Mark Lloyd from the Angling Trust, told BBC News: "The rules on protecting soil aren't being enforced. We need a baseline of regulation to stop bad farmers doing the wrong thing and to stop good farmers looking over the fence and seeing someone else get away with it.

"The trouble is that the Environment Agency can only respond to major incidents. But soil run-off is diffuse pollution - it comes in hundreds of thousands of trickles, not normally one big incident."

"What we really need is Treasury support, because for an investment of tens of millions of pounds you get hundreds or billions of pounds in benefit to local councils, water companies, and society as a whole."

The report will call for a strategic approach to land use management in the UK, to be overseen by the new body proposed by Mr Gove to ensure environmental standards post-Brexit.

This would allow different farming practices in different areas. It would lead to farmers in parts of the West Country being incentivised to revert cropland to pasture or woodland to capture rainfall and bind vulnerable soils together.

The groups say farmers who allow soil to run off fields should first be given advice. But if they transgress again they should be prosecuted and lose farm grants.

Farmers who help prevent flooding and increase the carbon content of their soils should be rewarded through the grant system.

Investing in soil

One potato farmer, Sam Bright from Woodmanton, told BBC News he had worked with the Wye and Usk Foundation to improve soil conservation through a range of measures, including planting buffer strips of grass round field edges; increasing pastureland; and using minimum tillage, which avoids the traditional method of overturning soil with a plough.

In earlier years, he used to sell off his wheat straw to livestock farmers after harvest - now he chops it and leaves it on the soil surface. "The worms are pulling the straw residue right down into the soil for us. So we've got good organic levels right through the soil profile. It's improving our drainage, our soil structure and our soil health," he told me.

Kate Adams from the Wye and Usk Foundation has been advising local farmers. "The biggest step by far is for a farmer to take the first step in acknowledging that there's something on the farm that needs to be addressed," she told BBC News.

"I don't tell farmers what to do. There's no point me selling them a conservation message if that's not what they are interested in. Whatever advice I give has to go with the grain of what they want to do. And most of them want to improve how their farm works."

The NFU's Diane Mitchell told me: "The awareness amongst farmers about the importance of investing in our soil health is at an all-time high, with increasing uptake in techniques such as cover cropping and minimum tillage.

"The NFU sees good soil health as a key element of any new domestic agricultural policy in the future, helping deliver dual benefits for our productivity and for public goods, such as carbon and soil biodiversity."

A government spokesman told BBC News: "Our farmers work hard to keep our soils rich, our rivers clean and to help in the fight against environmental degradation. We are considering the proposals put forward (in the report) to improve these efforts further.

Soil benefits

The report says protecting soil has multiple benefits. It:

  • improves the ability of future farmers to grow crops,
  • save on fertilisers and pesticides;
  • reduces the need for dredging;
  • is good for anglers and tourism;
  • reduces flooding;
  • protects against drought by recharging aquifers;
  • uses less diesel by minimising ploughing;
  • saves costs for water firms, so cuts bills;
  • locks up carbon to tackle climate change;
  • increases wildlife.

Follow Roger?on Twitter.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 4th Apr 2018

Image result for Jean-Claude Biver

One on the most powerful men in luxury retailing has said it is time to stop seeing smartwatch makers Apple and Google as threats.

Jean-Claude Biver, who runs watchmakers Tag Heuer, Hublot, and Zenith, said the smartwatch will boost his industry.

Mr Biver was instrumental in reviving the Swiss industry after it was devastated in the 1970s and '80s by Japan's quartz battery revolution.

The entrepreneur also warned about the impact of a US-China trade war.

Speaking to the BBC during the Baselworld watch and jewellery fair in Switzerland, the global showcase for the Swiss industry, Mr Biver said Apple and Samsung should be invited to exhibit at the event.

But Mr Biver, now head of watches at French luxury goods giant LVMH, said traditionalists in the industry would be against it. "A lot of people wouldn't want Apple here. I know people who say this [event] should only be for the Swiss.

"The Apple watch is a watch: it's a bracelet that gives you information: hours, minutes, the date.

"But there are too many people here [in Basel] who don't think it's a watch. There are people here who say, if you're not Swiss you can't be here. It's like telling, say, Kia they can't come to the Geneva Motor Show because they are South Korean."

Mr Biver's sideswipe at sections of the industry will resonate because of his decades of experience in deal-making and reviving brands, especially after Japanese manufacturers emerged as powerful competitors with their quartz battery products.

His early use of product placements, notably in James Bond films, and celebrity endorsements are now routine in the luxury goods sector.

Apple sold about 20 million smartwatches last year, and many analysts think it will be the next big challenge for the Swiss industry.

Baselworld saw the launch of several hybrid smartwatches, which mix traditional mechanical features with connectivity.

But, crucially, the technological lead at Apple and Samsung has made them hugely popular among younger consumers.

Mr Biver said on of the biggest challenges facing his industry is getting a new generation to buy traditional watches.

"Apple and Samsung are promoters of the watch because they teach people to wear something on their wrist.

"Imagine a generation who did not wear any watch. It would be much more difficult for us to sell them something."

The traditional watch makers should embrace Apple and Samsung rather than run away because they could learn so much, the industry veteran said.

Mr Biver said a far greater threat was the current geo-political situation. A China-US trade war and growth of protectionism threatens to bring the luxury sector's recovery to a halt.

"When the mood changes to pessimism, the luxury sector suffers… At this moment, we are on the verge of something that could be damaging."

He said there had recently been a big turnaround in luxury goods sales in China, and particularly in watches among young people. "China has been the driving force in the recovery" of luxury goods, he said.

Swiss watch exports were up 12.8% in the first two months of the year, with Hong Kong and China both rising around 30%.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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