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Putin’s hackers support National Front and hack Macron

Russian hackers have been targeting the election campaign of Emmanuel Macron, the favorite to win France’s presidential election.

The hackers belong to a cyber espionage group linked by some experts to the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

Feike Hacquebord, a researcher with security firm Trend Micro, said he had found evidence that the spy group, dubbed “Pawn Storm”, targeted the Macron campaign with email phishing tricks and attempts to install malware on the campaign site.

He said digital fingerprints linked the Macron attacks with those last year on the US Democratic National Committee (DNC) the campaign of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that similar techniques were used to target German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party in April and May of 2016.

“We have seen that phishing sites were set up and the fingerprints were really the same actors as in the DNC breach,” Hacquebord said.

Russia denied any involvement in the attacks on Macron’s campaign but there are advantages for Putin to have Le Pen as president. For a start, she will want to leave the EU which will be enough to collapse the bloc completely. A disunited EU would be better for Russia.

Security experts say Pawn Storm is known to let time pass before leaking stolen documents and that any hacking of Macron’s campaign in recent months is unlikely to influence the run-up to the May 7 second round. But, if documents have been stolen, they could be used to blackmail Macron as president should he win.

A spokesman for French government cyber security agency ANSSI confirmed the attacks on the Macron campaign, but declined to say whether the Russian-linked group was to blame.

“What we can prove is that it’s the classic operation procedure of Pawn Storm,” the spokesman said. “However, we will not attribute the attack because we can very easily be manipulated and the attacker could pass themselves off as somebody else.”

Macron, a liberal internationalist is not a big fan of Putin while e Le Pen has loaned cash from Russian banks and advocated pro-Kremlin policies.

Hacquebord said the Pawn Storm group set up four fake email phishing accounts to mount attacks against Macron’s “En Marche!”, or “Onwards”, using a fake server located at and similar site names in March and April.

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.”


Uber had software designed to diddle drivers and users

A class-action lawsuit against taxi outfit Uber claims that the taxi outfit is running a “clever and sophisticated” scheme in which it manipulates navigation data used to determine ‘upfront’ rider fare prices while secretly short-changing the driver.

According to court documents, when a rider uses Uber’s app to hail a ride, the fare the app immediately shows to the passenger is based on a slower and longer route compared to the one displayed to the driver.

The software displays a quicker, shorter route for the driver. But the rider pays the higher fee, and the driver’s commission is paid from the cheaper, faster route, according to the lawsuit.

Uber implemented the so-called “upfront” pricing scheme in September and informed drivers that fares are calculated on a per-mile and per-minute charge for the estimated distance and time of a ride.

“However, the software that calculates the upfront price that is displayed and charged to the Users calculates the expected distance and time using a route that is often longer in both distance and time to the one displayed in the driver’s application,” according to the suit.

The rider pays a higher fee because the software calculates a longer route and displays that to the passenger. The driver does not even get any benefit because they are paid a lower rate based on a quicker route.

Uber trousers the difference charged to the User and the fare reported to the driver, in addition to the service fee and booking fee disclosed to drivers.

US addiction to outsourcing might cost it the Robot revolution

Pepper the Robot, courtesy Xavier CareThe US’s addiction to off-shoring might cost it a seat in the next revolution of manufacturing.

As robots are rushing to take over human jobs, the US is finding that its own manufacturing base is not taking advantage – mostly because it off-shored its manufacturing ages ago.

Roboticist Matt Rendall said that robotic job displacement will reshape global manufacturing and since America, which has outsourced much of its manufacturing and lacks serious investment in industrial robotics, it will be relegated to a third world country.

In the future, it will be the robot makers which will have the key role in determining how automation expands across the globe.

As the CEO of manufacturing robotics company Otto Motors, Rendall is building fleets of warehouse bots that could eventually replace the many fulfilment workers who are hired by companies like Amazon.  He said that the robots were coming.

“After the Great Recession, there was a fundamental change in people’s interest in automation. People started feeling the pain of high-cost labour and there’s an appetite for automation that we haven’t seen before.”

Rendall believes automation will, in the long-term, improve society and help humans live better lives, but there are changes afoot in the global manufacturing scene that could leave American industries in the dust.

“China is tracking to be the No. 1 user in robots used in industrial manufacturing and the country is driving “an overwhelming amount” of growth.

But China is responding to automation by embracing it instead of shying away from it. This is in stark contrast to industrial advances of the previous century, like Ford’s assembly line, that helped transform American industries into the most powerful on the planet.

The risk is of course is that if the US does not do something fast then that crown will leave it being a nuclear powered also ran on the world stage, dreaming of days when it used to be great.


Microsoft and Safari browser use dying

It seems that the world has had enough of Microsoft and Apple’s browsers and all roads are starting to lead to Chrome.

According to California-based analytics vendor Net Applications, from March 2015 to February 2017, the use of Microsoft’s IE and Edge on Windows and Apple’s Safari browser plummeted.

Two years ago, the Volish browsers were run by 62 per cent of Windows PC owners. Last month, the figure had fallen by more than half, to just 27 percent. An estimated 69 per cent of all Mac owners used Safari to go online. But by last month, that number had dropped to 56 percent, a drop of 13 percentage points — representing a decline of nearly a fifth of the share of two years prior.

Simultaneous with the decline of IE and Safari has been the rise of Chrome. The user share of Google’s browser — its share of all browsers on all operating systems — more than doubled in the last two years, jumping from 25 percent in March 2015 to 59.5 percent last month. Along the way, Chrome supplanted IE to become the world’s most-used browser.

In the last 24 months, Mozilla’s Firefox — the other major browser alternative to Chrome for macOS users — has barely budged, losing just two-tenths of a percentage point in user share.

Zuckerberg rethinks Hawaiian land grab

bf189436bbf661a83128687290d17d42Zuckerberg has realised that pushing natives off their land is so 19th century and that it might cast him in the same light as General Custer, or the bad guy in the new Disney flick Moana .

For those who came in late, Zuckerburg has been involved with a land grab in Hawaii where he uses the power of his lawyers to force hundreds of Hawaiians to sell him small plots of land they own that lie within the boundaries of a 700-acre beachfront property on the island of Kauai.

This is particularly nasty given that the land has been in Hawaiian hands for a few hundred years and there is no way that Zuckerburg cannot look evil.

Now the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he is “reconsidering” a set of lawsuits now that the the move has attracted widespread publicity.

What has got Zuckerberg’s goat is that the families have the rights to travel across Zuckerberg’s property. He insists that most of the natives don’t even know they own land there.

Last week, Zuckerberg insisted that “For most of these folks, they will now receive money for something they never even knew they had. No one will be forced off the land”.





Foxconn will build in the US

huet_fox_chickenFoxconn is considering setting up a display making plant in the United States in an investment that will cost $7 billion.

Company chairman and chief executive Terry Gou said the move was to attempt to get around US President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump’s planned protectionism and a trend for politics to underpin economic development.

Foxconn’s proposal to build a display plant, which would be planned with its Sharp unit, will depend on many factors, such as investment conditions, that would have to be negotiated at the U.S. state and federal levels, Gou said.

Gou said that Foxconn had been considering such a move for years but the issue came up when Foxconn business partner Masayoshi Son, head of Japan’s SoftBank talked to Gou before a December meeting Son had with Trump.

Son pledged a $50 billion of investment in the United States and inadvertently disclosed information showing Foxconn’s logo and an unspecified additional $7 billion investment. At the time, Foxconn issued a brief statement saying it was in preliminary discussions to expand its U.S. operations, without elaborating.

The United States has no panel-making industry but it is the second-largest market for televisions. An investment for a display plant would exceed $7 billion and could create about 30,000-50,000 jobs.

“I thought it was a private conversation, but then the next morning it was exposed,” Gou said. “There is such a plan, but it is not a promise. It is a wish.”

This is also a long way from manufacturing iPhones in the US.

If any deal goes ahead it will likely not provide many US jobs either. Foxconn is keen on creating heavily robotised plants with limited human staff.

Tosh takes another kick in the nadgers

Toshiba Corp President and Chief Executive Officer Hisao Tanaka attends a news conference on panel to examine accounting issues in Tokyo May 15, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Troubled tech giant Toshiba saw its financial crisis deepen as reports suggest that it might have to  book a bigger-than-expected $6 billion writedown on its U.S. nuclear business.

The fear is that any restructuring it does, including the sale of a stake in its chip business will be sufficient to address fix the company. Toshiba has also approached government-backed Development Bank of Japan (DBJ) for help which is a bad sign.

Toshiba executives will sit down with representatives from its main banks to discuss possible support. Things might not be that bleak. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking told a briefing the lender would like to support Toshiba as much as possible. The other banks have not commented.

Tosh was battered by an accounting scandal in 2015, and assaulted by write down cost overruns at projects handled by a newly acquired US nuclear power plant construction firm. All that remains is for the company to be liberally covered in vinegar and will have had its chips. Actually it will have to sell its chips which makes the whole fish and chip analogy redundant.

Sources familiar with the matter had previously flagged the size of the expected charge at more than $4.4 billion. Kyodo news agency and other domestic media said that estimates had now ballooned due to unfavorable currency rates.


LG slips for first time in six years

maxresdefault (3)LG Electronics has predicted it will make its first quarterly operating loss in six years in October-December.

As you might expect the drop is because of continued mobile losses and but appliances sales as weak at that time of year too.

LG is the second-biggest telly maker behind Samsung and it thinks it will suffer a $29.36 million loss for the fourth quarter, its first since a bigger loss in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Most analysts were expecting LG to come up with a profit although some thought a loss was inevitable.

LG said revenue for the quarter likely rose 1.5 percent. The firm did not disclose further details on its earnings and will release full results including performance by individual businesses at the end of January.

The company in October said its fourth-quarter profit would decline from the previous three months due to weaker earnings in its appliances business, its top profit engine this year, as well as higher promotional expenses heading into the year-end holiday shopping season.

Higher liquid crystal display prices heading into the holiday season also likely compressed margins for the TV division and further undercut profit.


White House rushes to lock out Russian hackers

Vladimir Putin - Wikimedia CommonsThe White House is rushing to stop Russian hackers from gaming future US elections before Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump takes over and lets them get away with it.

President Obama wants to implement measures to penalise Russia for allegedly interfering in the US presidential elections. In 2015, the White House announced new economic sanctions, which authorised the Obama administration to punish and prevent foreign hackers who attack US national security and economy.

The National Security Council, the sanctions fall short of providing the current administration enough power to punish the biggest and most controversial cyberattack that hit the Democratic National Committee so now it is trying to work out how to tailor the sanctions to punish the Russian election hackers.

According to reports, one way of striking back at the Russian election hackers would be to declare electoral systems as critical infrastructure and what the Russians did actually harmed it,

The White House is seeking to employ measures that not only provide authority to penalise hackers who harm national security, but also prevent such attacks in the future.

US authorities blame Russian state-sponsored hackers for targeting political parties in efforts to interfere in the elections and help Trump secure a victory. The White House’s allegations were bolstered by US intelligence and the FBI’s analysis of the attacks, which also hold Russia responsible for its interference in the elections.

The worry is that if the Russians think “that worked pretty well” they will try to do it every-time the US has an election until they get the sort of government they want. The fear is that when Trump enters the White House he will abandon any moves to shore up the defenses against Russia because he owes them rather a lot of money.  If the rules are in place before he takes over, it might be more difficult for him to bin them.