Author: Nick Farrell

German hackers are revolting

Germany is facing a huge increase in the numbers of hacking cases.

The German government registered 82,649 cases of computer fraud, espionage and other cyber crimes in 2016, an increase of just over 80 percent from 2015.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is due to release the new statistics, part of the government’s annual crime report, on Monday, according to Die Welt.

In addition to cybercrime, German police also registered 253,290 cases of crimes carried out with the help of the internet, an increase of 3.6 percent from 2015, the newspaper reported.

While it is possible that there is a sudden rise in the numbers of disaffected youth who want to stick it to the man, it is more likely the figure represents a move by organised crime to lift cash from companies.

The rise coincides  with a move by Eastern German and Russian mafia types to switch to internet extortion which is easier than hitting people with lead pipes and less noisy than shooting them.

“That is a very pretty server you have there Hans, it would be a pity if anything happened to it.”

 

Another player signs up for a load of old Tosh

US private equity outfit KKR & Co and Japanese government-backed fund, Innovation Network of Japan (INCJ) have announced that they will send a joint offer for Toshiba’s memory chip unit.

They are the latest to throw their hat into the ring to buy the memory chip unit, which Tosh is flogging off to cover charges at its US nuclear business, Westinghouse.

KKR is expected to take part next month in a second bidding round after performing due diligence on Toshiba’s memory chip business, the Nikkei report said.

INCJ could invest in the Toshiba business if it made sense, Japan’s industry and trade minister had said on Wednesday. The Japanese are concerned about Japanese companies being flogged off overseas.

Toshiba has so far narrowed the field of bidders to four: Western Digital, Broadcom, South Korea’s SK Hynix and Foxconn.

Russian super-hacker gets 27 years

The US Justice Department has announced that a 32-year-old Russian “superhacker” has been sentenced to 27 years in prison for stealing and selling millions of credit-card numbers.

Roman Valeryevich Seleznev, 32, aka Track2, son of a prominent Russian politician, caused more than $169 million worth of damage to business and financial institutions in his hacks, the DoJ claims.

He was convicted last year on 38 counts of computer intrusion and credit card fraud.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said that his investigation, conviction, and sentence demonstrates that the United States will bring the full force of the American justice system upon cybercriminals like Seleznev who victimize US citizens and companies from afar.

“And we will not tolerate the existence of safe havens for these crimes – we will identify cybercriminals from the dark corners of the internet and bring them to justice.”

 

Apple and Facebook spend a fortune lobbying Trump

Facebook and Apple set their record high for spending in a single quarter. Facebook spent $3.2 million lobbying the federal government in the first months of the Trump era.

During the same period last year, Facebook spent $2.8 million which sounds rather a lot but it is actually 15 percent less than it spent this year.

The company lobbied both chambers of Congress, the White House, and six federal agencies on issues including high-tech worker visas, network neutrality, internet privacy, encryption, and international taxation.

Facebook was the 12th-highest spender out of any company and second-highest in tech.

The Fruity cargo cult Apple spent $1.4 million, which is just $50,000 more than during the final months of the Obama presidency, when it set its previous record and the most it has ever spent in a single quarter.

Apple lobbied on issues including government requests for data, the regulation of mobile health apps, and self-driving cars.

Google, once again, outspent every other technology company. It was tenth overall, tallying $3.5 million.

While the search giant decreased its lobbying spending compared with this time last year, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber all boosted their beltway budgets for the first three months of 2017.

Amazon spent $3 million on lobbying, behind only Facebook and Google, and was 17th out of all companies including ones outside of tech. Amazon met with government officials to discuss net neutrality, drone air cargo, drone privacy, and the flow of data across borders, among other issues. Microsoft claimed $2.3 million as the fourth-biggest spender in tech and 27th overall.

Assange betrayed by Trump

It rather looks like Julian Assange’s attempts to get Donald Trump elected has backfired on him completely.

Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump has decided that Assange is a criminal and he wants him arrested and to stand trial in the US.

The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by the former US Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning.

During President Barack Obama’s administration, Attorney General Eric Holder and officials at the Justice Department determined it would be difficult to bring charges against Assange because WikiLeaks wasn’t alone in publishing documents stolen by Manning. Several newspapers, including The New York Times, did too.

Apparently that changed when Assange helped Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, disclose a massive cache of classified documents.

In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, CIA Director Mike Pompeo went further than any US government official in describing a role by WikiLeaks that went beyond First Amendment activity.

Pompeo said WikiLeaks: “Directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States. It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

US intelligence agencies have confirmed that Russian intelligence used WikiLeaks to publish emails aimed at undermining the campaign of Hillary Clinton, as part of a broader operation to meddle in the US 2016 presidential election. Hackers working for Russian intelligence agencies stole thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and officials in the Clinton campaign and used intermediaries to pass along the documents to WikiLeaks, according to a public assessment by US intelligence agencies.

Assange backed the wrong horse in the elections, and if he thought he was going to get a clear statement from Trump that he would be free thanks to his help he is mistaken.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference yesterday that Assange’s arrest was a “priority”.

“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”

What this means is that even if Assange waits another five years for the statute of limitations to expire on his Swedish sex case, he is going to face extradition to the US.  It also means that all his claiming that the Swedish case was a smokescreen to get him back was complete fantasy.

Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, argued that US prosecution of Assange sets a dangerous precedent.

“Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public. Any prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing government secrets would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organisations.”

Musk wants electronic telepathy in four years

Tesla boss Elon Musk claims his latest company Neuralink is working to link the human brain with a machine interface by creating micron-sized devices.

Neuralink is aiming to bring to the market a product that helps with certain severe brain injuries due to strokes, cancer lesion etc, in about four years,.

Musk said that communicating a concept is engaging in consensual telepathy. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will create computers so sophisticated and godlike that humans will need to implant “neural laces” in their brains to keep up.

“There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing. If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person.”

He said that the technology could take about eight to 10 years to become usable by people with no disability, which would depend heavily on regulatory approval timing and how well the devices work on people with disabilities, Musk was quoted as saying.

Canada cements in net neutrality

While US president Donald (prince of Orange) Trump is giving Big Telco the internet, things are going the opposite way in Canada.

A new ruling by Canada’s telecommunications watchdog has stated that internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person’s data cap.

The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers.

Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC said that rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices.

“That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume.”

The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec.

Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron’s internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form — nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.

Apple forces suppliers to shred gear

Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Report reveals some rather nasty tricks that the company does to kill off the life span of its products.

While the Tame Apple Press has been singing praises of Apple’s environmental record based on the report it is choosing to ignore some very important environmental misses.

While Apple said that its aim is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate, that is mostly a moonshot plan and not as important as Jobs’ Mob actually doing something itself.

The most important is Apple’s current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could to salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap and reuse them.

Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused — instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass.

After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale.

While this is great for Jobs’ Mob, it means that users are forced to buy new gear, which places a strain on the environment.

Oak Ridge boffins work out how to dry their clothes

Boffins at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are worried what they will use to dry their clothes when their mothers can’t manage anymore.

A team has come up with a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker which is five times more energy efficient than most conventional dryers.

It does not matter if you have not done any washing for a couple of months because the drier can do a large load of clothes in about half the time.

Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations.

Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes. The scientists say that this method will allow a medium load of laundry to dry in 20 minutes, which is significantly less time than the average 50 minutes it takes in many heat-based machines.

The drying technology also leaves less lint behind than normal dryers do, since the majority of lint is created when the hot air stream blows tiny fibres off of clothing.

Drying clothes without heat also reduces the chance that their colours will fade.

According to the US Department of Energy, the ultrasonic dryer has been in development for the past couple of years.

But now it has recently been “developed into a full-scale press dryer and clothes dryer drum — setting the stage for it to one day go to market through partners like General Electric Appliances”.

Tesla settles autopilot lawsuit

Tesla has settled the lawsuit against its former director of Autopilot Programs, Sterling Anderson, for stealing proprietary information about the Autopilot programme and recruiting fellow Tesla engineers to work with him at Aurora Innovation.

The lawsuit was settled with Tesla withdrawing its allegations without damages and Aurora agreeing to make itself available for an audit by a third party to make sure it doen’t have proprietary information from Tesla’s Autopilot program.

Aurora also agreed to cover the cost of the audit for up to $100,000. The startup claims that it had already ordered its own audit, which found no material Tesla confidential information.

As for the allegations of poaching employees, Aurora has agreed not to reach out to Tesla employees for a year and to release the names of former Tesla employees who have joined the startup already.

It seems rather odd that Tesla appears to be backing down having made such a bit noise against the outfit. It does appear as if the whole legal project went off half cocked from the outset.  The tech press did a quite shufty at all the Aurora employees on LinkedIn and it is  clear that Tesla has nothing to moan about.

A handful of Autopilot engineers joined Aurora while almost a dozen former Uber engineers working on self-driving have joined the startup, including Drew Bagnell, a Carnegie Mellon University who was part of Uber’s autonomous driving leadership until last December.