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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

Mobile phone companies should allow customers to roam between networks in areas of the UK where they struggle to get reception, a group of MPs has said.

The British Infrastructure Group said foreign visitors get better coverage, as they are not tied to any provider, so can use the strongest signal.

The report said 17 million customers had poor reception at home and it named 525 areas with non-existent coverage.

Phone companies insist they are working hard to make their coverage better.

Little improvement

Roaming allows customers' phones to connect to another operator's network if their own service provider is not available in a particular area.

The cross-party group of about 90 backbench MPs called on ministers to make sweeping changes, including changing the law to allow domestic roaming in the UK, making it cheaper for customers to switch provider and identifying the worst phone networks.

The report said mobile phone coverage in the UK had not improved significantly since 2014 when the government agreed a £5bn investment deal with the network operators.

The agreement is expected to fall short of its target of providing coverage to 90% of the UK's geographical area by the end of 2017.

'Better call'

Group chairman Grant Shapps said: "It is unacceptable that areas in Britain continue to have such poor mobile connectivity, and that overseas visitors can expect better mobile coverage than Britons stuck with a single provider.

"The time for excuses from the mobile sector is over. The government must make a better call for Britain and bring national mobile coverage policy into the 21st Century."

Gary MacRae, who runs the Hazel Bank Country House Hotel in Borrowdale, Cumbria, said he had to rely on a landline because there was no mobile reception at the premises.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: "The only way our guests are able to get signal is either go to the top of one of the small mountains just along from us that you can see from our window or drive down the road five or six miles."

Mr MacRae said in previous years the lack of mobile signal would have been a selling point but now people want it to stay connected to their loved ones.

He also said a mobile phone signal was needed in the area "just in case of emergencies" for those who may get into trouble while out walking in the countryside.

A workaround for customers?

Grant Shapps MP

Image captionGrant Shapps MP used a foreign SIM during election campaigning

MP Grant Shapps told the BBC he used a foreign SIM during election campaigning, which allowed him to connect to whichever network had the strongest signal.

Money Saving Expert's Martin Lewis said in most cases using a foreign SIM, or a global roaming SIM, in an unlocked handset would allow customers to receive better overall network coverage.

He suggested the most effective way would be to have a dual SIM phone which would mainly use a UK SIM but could switch to a foreign SIM when there was no signal.

But he said the cost would be likely to be higher as customers would be paying increased roaming charges for making and receiving calls.

Mr Lewis, who previously wrote a blog on the issue, said: "It would be a very expensive way to make calls in the UK.

"But you could do it if it was absolutely integral to you. If you are the type of person who would use a satellite phone then doing this would not be a bad solution.

"It's going to cost a fortune compared to using a normal phone. On that basis it's not a practical solution for most people."

Mobile UK, the trade association for mobile phone companies, said allowing customers to roam between networks would not provide the "right incentives" for operators to make future investments.

Spokesman Hamish MacLeod said: "This was looked at by the government a couple of years ago and it was decided that the cost of doing it would not be justified, it's technically difficult to do in a localised way, and that it wouldn't always offer the best customer experience.

"But the most important thing was that it would not have the right incentives in place for network investments to be made."

Large exit fees

Mr MacLeod told the BBC the industry was working hard to hit its target of providing 90% coverage and investment was being put in place to limit reception blackspots.

However, he said domestic roaming would not provide an incentive for companies to build "the right infrastructure", such as expensive towers in remote areas, if the service then had to be shared with other operators.

The report also stated that customers were at risk of being hit with large exit fees if they decide to terminate their contract, even if it was due to poor quality service.

The government said a bill going through Parliament would give regulator Ofcom the power to fine firms that do not deliver improvements.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

Hooded hacker on laptop i nfront of bank of desktop monitorsImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Do you use a webcam to check on Tiddles the cat or Bonzo the dog while you're at work?

If so, you could be unwittingly turning your internet-connected "smart" home into a weapon of web destruction.

That's the unsettling conclusion to be drawn from the recent web attacks that made use of a botnet army of compromised connected devices, from webcams to printers, to knock out a number of popular websites.

The smart home, it seems, is pretty dumb when it comes to security.

Wi-fi routers, digital video recorders, controllable lighting, security cameras - all these devices offer a potentially easy way in to your network and then the wider internet.

As the Internet Society warned last year: "The interconnected nature of IoT [internet of things] devices means that every poorly secured device that is connected online potentially affects the security and resilience of the internet globally."

Cat on domestic floorImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionIs the webcam monitoring Tiddles also being hijacked by hackers?

Yes, checking on Frou-Frou, your Miniature Schnauzer, via a poorly secured webcam could help break the internet. Forget Kim Kardashian.

In the good old days, hackers could launch a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack - overloading computer servers with millions of pointless requests for information, thereby knocking them out - using personal computers infected with malware.

Nowadays, they also have the IoT to play with - the increasingly diverse array of web-connected devices, from industrial sensors to clever fridges, thermostats to baby monitors.

Internet of things graphicImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionGartner forecasts there will be 21 billion connected devices globally by 2020

Research consultancy Gartner forecasts that there will be nearly 21 billion connected things in use worldwide by 2020, up from about seven billion now.

So the hackers are moving away from better-policed corporations and governments to easier targets - and they don't come easier than the IoT-connected smart home.

So what should we be doing to protect ourselves?

Building defences

One quick and easy thing we can all do is change default passwords as soon as we buy an IoT gadget.

"The first rule of security is 'do not use default accounts or passwords'. They are posted on the internet, so the bad guys don't have to scan for credentials of assets to compromise," says Gary Hayslip, IoT specialist and chief information security officer for the City of San Diego.

Simple tools such as Bullguard's IoT Scanner software can also help spot weaknesses.

Remote home control system on digital tabletImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionWho might really be controlling your connected home devices?

The scanner detects any devices on a smart home network that are publicly exposed using the vulnerability service Shodan, the Google for finding unprotected computers and webcams.

If the scan identifies any exposed devices specified by the vendor, then you should immediately change log-ins and passwords. BullGuard has also published an IoT manual that gives a checklist on what to check and how.

Interestingly, the company recently acquired Israeli start-up Dojo-labs and will soon announce a smart network security device that plugs in to a wi-fi router to protect all connected devices on a home network.

Dojo product sitting on routerImage copyrightDOJO-LABS

Image captionThe Dojo device plugs into the back of your wi-fi router to protect all your smart home devices

All internet traffic on the home network is routed via Dojo, allowing it to secure the network against cyber-attacks and protect the user from privacy breaches.

When malicious activity or a privacy breach is detected, Dojo automatically blocks it and notifies the owner through a mobile app, the company says.

"The recent internet outage caused by the Mirai botnet enhances the fact that IoT security needs to be taken more seriously," says Bullguard chief executive Paul Lipman.

"The Mirai botnet consists of easily hackable low-end security cameras with no changeable passwords. A home security device such as Dojo has the ability to instantly detect and block an attack such as Mirai."

Security camera on side of houseImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionSecurity cameras have been particularly vulnerable to hacking in recent years

And Martin Talks, founder of digital consultancy Matomico, offers this advice for smart home owners.

"Only point connected cameras where they are really needed. It was Edward Snowden who alerted us to the fact that cameras can be taken over and our presence in our houses monitored. If you don't need a camera active, tape over it.

"Think about what devices you really need to connect to the internet," he adds. "And if you decide you do need to connect a device, use the connectivity only when you need it... turn it off at night."

Other ways to increase IoT security including keeping product software and firmware up-to-date and buying from trusted brands and trusted platforms.

Media captionEXPLAINED: What is a DDoS attack?

One of the reasons why some electronics are cheaper than others is that manufacturers cut corners on security - like putting cheap tyres on an expensive car.

Divided we fall?

So what is the IoT industry doing to improve security? After all, it's their products that are turning our connected homes into new recruits for botnet armies.

While most agree that common security standards are a good idea, the unhelpful response has been to set up a number of competing associations each developing their own standards: the Online Trust Alliance, the IoT Security Foundation, the Open Connectivity Foundation, and the Industrial Internet Consortium, for example.

Meanwhile the big tech companies - Apple, Amazon, LG and Samsung primarily - still believe they can create their own closed ecosystems and dominate the smart home market using their own standards.

Add to this product makers who do things on the cheap and lazy consumers sticking with default passwords, and you have all the conditions for the perfect IoT security storm.

So until the industry gets its act together, it's up to us to prevent our homes becoming weapons of web destruction.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

US actress Jennifer Lawrence poses before the Christian Dior 2017 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show, on September 30, 2016 in Paris.Image copyrightAFP

Image captionNaked photographs of Jennifer Lawrence were leaked online after an iCloud hack in 2014

A Pennsylvania court has sentenced a man to 18 months in jail for hacking into the accounts of celebrities and stealing nude photos and videos.

Ryan Collins, 36, pleaded guilty to the charges in May.

He had stolen the usernames and passwords of more than 600 people.

Collins tricked his victims - including actresses Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Scarlett Johansson, and Kirsten Dunst - by sending emails appearing be from Google or Apple.

Collins was charged with accessing the photos between 2012 and 2014, in a case known as "celebgate". But was not charged with releasing them.

A statement by prosecutors said: "Investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained."

Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts.

Court filings said he had used fraudulent email addresses designed to look like security accounts from service providers, including email.protection318@icloud.com, noreply_helpdesk0118@outlook.com and secure.helpdesk0119@gmail.com.

Collins was originally charged in Los Angeles, but sentenced in Pennsylvania, his home state.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

WhatsAppImage copyrightAP

Image captionThe data-sharing involved passing phone numbers of WhatsApp users to Facebook

WhatsApp has been warned by European privacy watchdogs about sharing user data with parent company Facebook.

The regulators said they had "serious concerns" about the changes made to WhatsApp's privacy policy, which made the sharing possible.

In a letter to the messaging firm, they asked it to stop sharing data until it was clear that European privacy rules were not being broken.

WhatsApp said it was working with data watchdogs to address their concerns.

Data oversight

In August this year, WhatsApp revealed that it would be sharing more information with Facebook, which bought the messaging app in early 2014 for $19bn (£16bn).

WhatsApp justified the change by saying this would mean suggestions about who people should connect with would be "more relevant".

But many criticised its decision because of earlier pledges that WhatsApp had made to remain independent of Facebook.

The decision to share information prompted investigations by data protection bodies across Europe. Now, the Article 29 Working Party, the collective association of data watchdogs, said more work needed to be done to ensure regional rules governing privacy were not broken when information passed from one firm to another.

The Working Party said this work had to be done because the sharing involved processing data in ways that were not in the privacy policy operating when people signed up.

The group called for data sharing to be halted while the terms of the deal were scrutinised.

A WhatsApp spokeswoman said: "We've had constructive conversations, including before our update, and we remain committed to respecting applicable law."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 19th Oct 2016

Martin Hajek MacBook Pro Render5A concept design of the new MacBook Pro by artist Martin Hajek.Martin Hajek

Apple will announce a new slate of Macs at an event on October 27, according to new reports from RecodeBloomberg, andTechCrunch.

The date would confirm previous suspicions that arose after Apple moved its upcoming Q4 earnings report from October 27 to October 25 due to a "scheduling conflict."

The reports do not provide any new details on what to expect from the event, but it's been reported for months that Apple would refresh its MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and iMac computers with updated specs sometime this fall. None of those series have been upgraded in over a year.

A redesigned MacBook Pro is expected to be the highlight. It's rumored to feature a slimmer design (and subsequently flatter keyboard), a TouchID fingerprint sensor, a USB-C connector with Thunderbolt 3 support, and a secondary, customizable OLED display that would replace the row of function keys that are found on most PCs. Previous reports have said that both 13- and 15-inch versions will be available.

Tim CookApple CEO Tim Cook.REUTERS/Stephen Lam


Beyond that, an updated version of the 13-inch MacBook Air that uses a USB-C connector is also reported to be in the works, though it appears unlikely that it will see a significant design refresh. A report from MacOtakara on Tuesday claimed that Apple will nix the 11-inch Air from its lineup, however, what with the thinner and ligher 12-inch MacBook already available.


Bloomberg reported in August that the company will also introduce a new standalone monitor, built in collaboration with LG. That's said to have a sharp 5K resolution. Apple discontinued its most recent 27-inch Thunderbolt monitor this past June without announcing a replacement.

Whatever devices arrive, they'd come at a time when PC sales as a whole remain on the decline. Macs have succumbed to that trend, too, but a fully updated lineup might provide a temporary repreive. 

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 19th Oct 2016

Julian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks speaks via video link during a press conference on the occasion of the ten year anniversary celebration of WikiLeaks in Berlin, Germany, October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Axel SchmidtusJulian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks speaks via video link during a press conference on the occasion of the ten year anniversary celebration of WikiLeaks in Berlin Thomson Reuters

LONDON (AP) -- Ecuador's government has acknowledged that it has "temporarily restricted" WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's internet access at its embassy in London after the whistleblowing site published documents from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

The foreign ministry in a statement Tuesday said that while it stands by its decision in 2012 to grant Assange asylum, it doesn't interfere in foreign elections. Leftist President Rafael Correa's government said it was acting on its own and not ceding to foreign pressures.

The foreign ministry didn't specify the extent of the restrictions on Assange's access to the internet, saying only that the restrictions on his communications wouldn't affect WikiLeaks' ability to carry out its journalistic activities.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 19th Oct 2016

It's shaping up to be a good week for Google's parent company, Alphabet.

Following a bunch of glowing reviews for Google's first smartphone, the Pixel, Alphabet's stock reached all-time highs Tuesday, reaching up to $801 per share.

The Pixel, which is available this week, is just the first device of a slew of new hardware products from Google. In a few weeks, it'll release the Google Home connected speaker, a new router called Google Wifi, and a new version of the Chromecast that works with 4K TVs.

It's still too early to judge whether Google's new emphasis on hardware can match the scale of companies like Apple and Samsung. It'll be years before that happens. But the company is off to a good start.

Before Google announced the hardware, some analysts predicted the stock would go all the way to $1,000.

Alphabet reports earnings on October 27.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 19th Oct 2016

Start your commute on the M25, London’s aging orbital highway, and your license plate will be registered before the exit you take is recorded. As you park, a CCTV camera will watch you buy a parking ticket. Head to a tube station and your Oyster card swipe will be logged and recorded. Wander through the labyrinth of interconnected tunnels that makes up the oldest subway system in the world and you will be tracked using facial recognition software.

Welcome to London, the city that never sleeps because it’s too busy watching you.

“Mass surveillance is a prominent part of counter terrorism strategy with the use of CCTV and other forms of monitoring,” says Lee Marsden, head of politics at the University of East Anglia. “In a city like London, with a dynamic, diverse, and multicultural community, this challenges social cohesion, particularly where it leads to mistrust and is seen as being targeted at certain ‘suspect’ communities.”

That challenge has arrived at a unique moment in England’s political and social history. Since June’s referendum vote for Britain to leave the European Union, the incidence of hate crimes in London has risen by 164%. In the wake of the Brexit decision, Theresa May — arguably the country’s most vocal and dedicated supporter of video surveillance and mobile phone tracking — has risen to the role of Prime Minister.


Since London’s riots in summer 2011, private contractors have been brought in by the city’s Metropolitan Police force to systematically link and index surveillance footage across all devices in the capital. The aim is to build a comprehensive database of all public movements. Images from CCTV, social media, and body cameras worn by police are being archived and made searchable at the click of a button.

This CCTV camera sends mixed messages.

This CCTV camera sends mixed messages.

Whether or not the system functions effectively, it represents a shift in the relationship between the governed and the government.

“I think the underlying issue with surveillance is that you don’t trust people,” says Jim Killock, director of campaigning organization Open Rights Group. People who are placed under surveillance, or think they are being placed under surveillance, are effectively being told that they are not worthy of trust. That’s a big problem.”

In this culture of mistrust, everybody becomes a suspect. Even garbage cans have been modified with chips that identify and record data from pedestrian’s smartphones as they wander by. Eavesdropping devices known as IMSI-catchers have been detected across key areas in the city, including Britains parliament. These surveillance tools pose as telecommunications towers in order to intercept data, phone calls, and messages — yet nobody is allowed to know who’s operating them, or even that they exist.


The justification for the surveillance measures is threefold: national security, to enforce the law, and to benefit the “economic well-being of the UK.” That last one is particularly pernicious in a city that is still, ostensibly, the financial capital of Europe. Using technology for state-backed corporate espionage has become a new norm.

“On the back of over-emphasizing the terrorist threat, the government are able to increase control over the population through increased surveillance. This is accepted when threats are perceived as credible, and enables authorities to seek to reduce other criminal behavior and civil disturbance,” says Marsden. “In a society where lives are lived out in the glare of social media sharing, self-surveillance desensitizes populations to increasingly invasive mass surveillance by the state.”

Big Ben, poster child for facial recognition.

Big Ben, poster child for facial recognition.

London is also a city of vast and growing inequality. Increasingly, it is the wealthy that support greater measures for surveillance, both because of the enormous amount of profit companies stand to gain from commodifying data, and the perceived safety that it affords those who can afford a stake in the game.

“It’s not all black and white, but there’s a sense in which if you think the institutions are likely to understand your predicament, you’re less likely to fear the result of arbitrary intervention of data,” Killock explains. “People who tend to be in favor of surveillance tend to be very much those with the most to lose. Polling suggests that people who are relatively well-off trust the government on these issues more than those on the lower end of the spectrum.”

Ten NGOs have filed a lawsuit against the UK government claiming that the country’s surveillance practices breach European Human Rights. Within a month of being appointed prime minister, Theresa May confirmed plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, which binds the UK government to the European Convention of Human Rights.

Regardless of the outcome of the case, it could represent the last time European laws can be used to hold the British government to account over invasions of privacy. So what does this mean for London’s surveillance epidemic?

As Killock puts it: “There’s potential for things to get a lot worse.”

Photos via Wikimedia Commons, Sputnik News, NASA

Source: inverse.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Oct 2016
  • Web page codeImage copyrightMACIEK905

Image captionThe attackers injected obfuscated code that copied payment details

Almost 6,000 web shops are unknowingly harbouring malicious code that is stealing the credit card details of customers, suggests research.

The code has been injected into the sites by cyberthieves, said Dutch developer Willem De Groot.

He found the 5,925 compromised sites by scanning for the specific signature of the data-stealing code in website software.

Some of the stolen data was sent to servers based in Russia, he said.

Costly mistake

In a blogpost, Mr De Groot said the attacks exploited known vulnerabilities in several different widely used web retailing programs. Mr De Groot is co-founder and head of security at Dutch ecommerce site byte.nl

Having won access, the attackers injected a short chunk of obfuscated code that copied credit card and other payment information. Stolen data was being sold on dark web markets at a rate of about $30 (£25) per card, he said.

His research found nine separate types of skimming code on sites, suggesting many different crime groups were involved.

Mr De Groot said he had been investigating skimming since his own card details were stolen. His work revealed the first sites harbouring the malicious code in late 2015 but further research showed the skimming started in earnest in May 2015. By the end of that year about 3,500 sites had been compromised.

Since then, he said, the number of sites had grown to 5,925 with some harbouring skimming code for almost 18 months. Victims included carmakers, fashion firms, government sites and museums.

The code used to steal data steadily became more sophisticated and now makes efforts to hide itself and tackle more types of payment systems.

"New cases could be stopped right away if store owners would upgrade their software regularly," wrote Mr De Groot. "But this is costly and most merchants don't bother."

Mr De Groot said some stores had taken action to flush out the skimming code and patch their stores after he published a list of compromised sites.

"I would recommend consumers to only enter their payment details on sites of known payment providers such as Paypal," he told the BBC. "They have hundreds of people working on security, the average store probably has none."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Oct 2016

The UK's new information commissioner has called for the country to adopt forthcoming EU data protection laws, despite its plan to leave the Union.

"I don't think Brexit should mean Brexit when it comes to standards of data protection," Elizabeth Denham told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

She added she would press WhatsApp over plans to share data with Facebook.

The new EU data protection regulations are designed to strengthen the rights individuals have over their data.

The idea is to make companies take the issue of data protection far more seriously.

The rules make it mandatory for large companies to employ a data protection officer and data breaches must be reported within 72 hours.

The legislation will take effect in 2018 and will apply to any company that handles EU citizens' data, even if that company is not based in Europe.

"The UK is going to want to continue to do business with Europe," Ms Denham told the BBC's Chris Vallance.

"In order for British businesses to share information and provide services for EU consumers, the law has to be equivalent.

"The UK was very involved in the drafting of the regulation - it will likely be in effect before the UK leaves the European Union - so I'm concerned about a start and stop regulatory environment."

Analysis by Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC Technology correspondent

She's another Canadian in a high profile job as a UK regulator and - like Mark Carney at the Bank of England - Elizabeth Denham is now showing she's not afraid to step into tricky political territory.

The new information commissioner made it clear that, in her view, leaving the EU did not mean leaving behind European regulation when it came to data protection.

To use such an explicit phrase as "I don't think Brexit should mean Brexit" in the context of data laws could be seen as courageous - or perhaps foolhardy.

But consumers will take more notice of her warning about WhatsApp's sharing of data with its parent Facebook.

She's shown she sympathises with the public's anger on this issue - now let's wait and see if she will back that up with action.

Ms Denham also told the BBC she had questions to ask of web giant Yahoo, which has admitted 500 million user accounts were breached in what it suggested was a state-sponsored attack.

It is thought eight million accounts belonged to UK users.

Yahoo logoImage copyrightEPA

Image captionYahoo's breach is the largest ever publicly disclosed

"This data breach is unprecedented. The numbers are staggering," she said.

"Why did it take so long for Yahoo to notify the public of the breach? It looks like it happened two years ago. What can these account holders do to protect themselves?

"I'm asking those questions on behalf of UK citizens."

Ms Denham also said she would probe WhatsApp's controversial plan to share more of its users' data with its parent company Facebook.

"We are told the data is not yet being shared," she told the BBC.

"We have launched an investigation into the data sharing, remembering that in 2014 when Facebook bought WhatsApp, there was a commitment made that between the two companies they would not share information.

"We are in a dialogue with Facebook and WhatsApp. It's an active and important investigation. You will hear from us very shortly."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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