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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

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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

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Skip Twitter post by @FZN_Fisher

Coach Fisher@FZN_Fisher

When kids play in class.

6:37 PM - Mar 21, 2018

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

Skip Twitter post by @FFreaked

@FFreaked

Welp they banned fortnite mobile on our school WiFi LMFAOOO

3:09 PM - Mar 21, 2018

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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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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 3rd Apr 2018

New Data Protection Regulation

We will be updating our data protection statement. We are making this change to take into account the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which takes effect in the UK from 25th May 2018.

You can request a copy of the new Data Protection Statement for you to read which replaces any existing statement you received when your account was opened.

Please contact Sally Pearson on 01675 430080.

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 3rd Apr 2018

Image result for grindr

The gay dating app has almost four million members around the world

Gay dating app Grindr has defended itself after an outcry over how it shared data with two external companies.

On Monday it emerged the app had, among other things, provided information on HIV status, including date last tested.

Grindr said the data was shared in line with standard industry practices, and that it felt the app had been unfairly singled out.

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it was investigating.

In a statement, it said it was working to "establish the scale of any impact on UK users".

Grindr said the information was not shared with any advertisers.

The companies that did get the data - Apptimize and Localytics - are paid to monitor how users interact with the software to see what could be improved.

The most sensitive information was encrypted, Grindr said - though a Norwegian campaign group said the sharing of other unencrypted data amounted to a potential privacy intrusion.

"The HIV status is linked to all the other information. That’s the main issue,” said Antoine Pultier from the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research, in an interview with BuzzFeed.

“I think this is the incompetence of some developers that just send everything, including HIV status.”

'We've been singled out'

However Grindr’s security boss Bryce Case later told US news site Axios that data sharing with third-party companies with the goal of improving the app, rather than selling data, was commonplace.

"I understand the news cycle right now is very focused on these issues,” Mr Case said.

"I think what’s happened to Grindr is, unfairly, we’ve been singled out."

The BBC understands the Grindr had already stopped sharing information with Apptimize, and was in the process of winding down its work with Localytics.

Users on Grindr are given the option to share their HIV status along with the time they were last tested - an option backed, the company said, by LGBTQ groups and international health organisations.

The information is made available to potential suitors in the app. It is also used to power other features, such as reminders to be tested, and where to go.

"It is up to each user to determine what, if anything, to share about themselves in their profile," Grindr said in a statement.

It added: "Grindr has never, nor will we ever sell personally identifiable user information - especially information regarding HIV status or last test date - to third parties or advertisers."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 2nd Apr 2018

We’ve just had a full blown argument in the office.

Flowery language. Dirty looks. The whole shebang.

All about one thing...

...Live Chat.

It’s increasingly popular on loads of websites. You’ll see it pop up in the bottom right hand corner “I’m Jack, can I help?”.

No Jack. You can’t.

I don’t like live chat. I like talking to people on the phone.

It seems I’m the only person in the office who’d choose a phone call over live chat.

Tell me I’m not the only one! What’s your view on live chat?

Send us an email and settle this debate before someone gets excluded from the tea round.

regards,
Damien

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 27th Mar 2018

I had one of those awful situations last week. I found myself doing the one thing that makes me start looking around the office for one of those promotional stress balls that people give out at exhibitions.

I was ON HOLD.

Nobody likes being on hold. It's the worst place to be.

Nothing tells you how unimportant your call/existence must be than hearing: "Thanks for waiting, your call IS important to us" for the eleventy third time.

There are a number of things that the Gods of Hold Music can decide to do with your call, only one of them is the one you've being praying for as you watch your call time tick up:

1) They can just terminate the call for no reason once you've been waiting for 15 minutes.

2) They can put you through to someone who tells you brusquely that you've come through to the wrong department and then (before you've had chance to even say anything) put you back on hold.

3) They can deliver you to someone who can solve your problem, without sending you anywhere else, or even asking to pop you back on hold.

The third option is about as likely as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un both being invited for a picnic at Downing Street.

Nobody wants to be on hold.

That's why we don't have any hold options here at Discus. When you call us, we answer the phone and solve your problem. Just like it should be.

Give us a call before 5pm and test it out on +44 (0)1675 430080.

Talk soon.

Damien

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 21st Mar 2018

If you want a job that rides the wave of the future, get hired by a firm that combats cyber-threats.

Criminal and malicious hackers are endlessly inventive and every day despatch novel viruses and other digital threats into cyber-space to wreak havoc.

Getting paid to tackle these is about as cutting edge as you can get.

One emerging discipline in this field of cyber-incident response tackles the most skilled and serious of these hackers - those who work for nation-states.

The UK's GCHQ now estimates that 34 separate nations have serious, well-funded cyber-espionage teams targeting friends and foes alike.

The threat from these state-sponsored digital spies has been deemed so serious that the intelligence agency has designated five firms victims can all on if they are caught out by these attackers.

"We get called when people have a big fire and we come along with our hoses and try to put it out," says James Allman-Talbot, head of incident response in the cyber-security division of BAE Systems.

"We're like the fire service," says BAE's James Allman-Talbot

That captures the fact that, more often than not, the fire brigade arrive to find a building still in flames. When it comes to cyber-fires, that means the hackers are still embedded in a victim's network and are still trying to steal data or burrow more deeply.

Unlike the fire service, the BAE team do not arrive in a blaze of lights and sirens. They have to be more stealthy.

"If the attackers have access to the victim's email servers the last thing you want to do is discuss it on there," says Robin Oldham, head of the cyber-security consulting practice at BAE, who is also part of the incident response team.

Tipping off the bad guys could prompt them to delete evidence or, if they have more malicious motives, shut down key systems and destroy data, he says.

Instead, responders first gather evidence to see how bad the incident is and how far the hackers have penetrated a network.

It's at this point that the team use the skills picked up during earlier careers. All of the team have solid technical computer skills to which they have added particular specialities.

Responders first gather evidence to see how bad the incident is and how far the hackers have penetrated a network

Prior to working at BAE, Mr Allman-Talbot did digital forensics for the Metropolitan Police and Mr Oldham has significant experience running large complex networks.

The good news about most organisations is that they typically gather lots of information about their network and often it is anomalies in the logs that expose suspicious activity.

But that extensive logging has a down side, says Mr Oldham.

"It can mean we have a large amount of data to work with and analyse. In some cases that means a few hundred million lines of log files."

Once incident response teams get their hands on data from a victim they start analysing it to see what has happened.

It's at this point that the allied discipline of threat intelligence comes into play. This involves knowing the typical attack tools and techniques of different hacking groups.

A stealthy response to an incident is key, says Robin Oldham

Good threat intelligence can mean responders hit the ground running, says Jason Hill, a researcher at security firm CyberInt.

"If you understand how they operate and deploy these tools and use them to attack the infrastructure you know what to look and how to spot the tell-tale signs."

In the past, nation state hackers have tried to bury themselves in a target network and siphon off data slowly.

"Criminal hackers have a more smash and grab mentality. They do it once and do it big," he says.

More recently, he adds, it has got harder to separate the spies from the cyber-thieves.

One example was the attack on Bangladesh's central bank - widely believed to have been carried out by North Korea. It netted the rogue state about £58m ($81m).

Russian groups also span both sides of the divide. Some criminal groups have been seen working for the state and often they use the tools gained in spying for other jobs.

North Korea is widely believed to have been behind an attack on Bangladesh's central bank

"The motivations of the groups have really become blurry of late," says Mr Hill.

Attribution - working out which group was behind a breach - can be difficult, says Mr Allman-Talbot, but spotting that one attack shares characteristics with several others can guide the investigators.

One widespread attack, dubbed Cloud Hopper, sought to compromise companies selling web-based services to large businesses. Getting access to a service provider could mean that the attackers then got at all its customers.

Thoroughly investigated by BAE and others, Cloud Hopper has been blamed on one of China's state-backed hacking groups known as APT10 and Stone Panda. Knowing how they got at a victim can help free the hackers' hold on a network and reveal all the places that need cleaning up.

Even with up-to-date intelligence on attack groups and their chosen methods, there will still be unanswered questions thrown up by an investigation, says Mr Allman-Talbot.

The joy of the job comes from during investigations as the team figures out how the bad guys got in, what they did and what data they got away with, he adds.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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