London terror case creates calls for back-doors

 

Tory hawks have discovered that the London terrorist was a Whatsup subscriber and are demanding the social notworking site give it a back door to prevent these attacks happening again.

British-born Khalid Masood sent an encrypted message moments before killing four people last week by ploughing his car into pedestrians and fatally stabbing a copper as he tried to get into parliament in an 82-second attack that struck terror in the heart of London.

British interior minister Amber Rudd said that technology companies must cooperate more with law enforcement agencies and should stop offering a “secret place for terrorists to communicate” using encrypted messages.

The only problem with this claim is that even if the spooks had a back door to Masood’s phone they would have had to have gone through a mountain of data of someone who they did not suspect was a terrorist, read the correct message and rushed to respond.

There have been lots of calls for messaging services to either abandon encryption or to allow the government to monitor them 24/7.  Practically this means checking the emails of known terrorists to see if they use a list of terrorist type words.  This does not work if they don’t or are not known terrorists or have terrorist connections.

Microsoft sued over Windows 10

Three people in Illinois have filed a lawsuit against Microsoft, claiming that its Windows 10 update destroyed their data and damaged their computers.

The complaint, filed in Chicago’s US District Court, claimed that Vole’s Windows 10’s installer was a defective product, and that its maker failed to provide adequate warning about the potential risks posed by Windows 10 installation.

The attorneys representing the trio are seeking to have the case certified as a class action that includes every person in the US who upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 and suffered data loss or damage to software or hardware within 30 days of installation.

They claim there are hundreds or thousands of affected individuals.

Microsoft responded that they’d offered free customer service and other support options for “the upgrade experience,” adding “We believe the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit”.

The complaint argues Windows 10’s installer “does not check the condition of the PC and if the hard drive can withstand the stress of the Windows 10 installation”.

The lead plaintiff says her hard drive failed after Windows 10 installed without her express approval, and she had to buy a new computer.

German boffins make artificial sunlight

German boffins have turned on what is being billed as “the world’s largest artificial sun,” a device they hope will help shed light on innovative ways of making climate-friendly fuels.

The giant honeycomb-like setup is made of 149 spotlights, dubbed Synlight, in Juelich, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Cologne, and uses xenon short-arc lamps normally found in cinemas to simulate natural sunlight that is often in short supply in Germany at this time of year.

By focusing the entire array on a single 20-by-20 centimeter (8×8 inch) spot, scientists from the German Aerospace Centre, or DLR , will be able to produce the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation that would normally shine on the same surface.

This creates temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees Celsius (5,432 Fahrenheit) which could be the key to making hydrogen.

Bernhard Hoffschmidt, the director of DLR’s Institute for Solar Research told the press that hydrogen will be the fuel of the future because it produces no carbon emissions when burned, meaning it doesn’t add to global warming.

But while hydrogen is the most common element in the universe it is rare on Earth. One way to manufacture it is to split water into its two components — the other being oxygen — using electricity in a process called electrolysis.

Researchers hope to bypass the electricity stage by tapping into the enormous amount of energy that reaches Earth in the form of light from the sun.

Hoffschmidt said the dazzling display is designed to take experiments done in smaller labs to the next level, adding that once researchers have mastered hydrogen-making techniques with Synlight’s 350-kilowatt array, the process could be scaled up ten-fold on the way to reaching a level fit for industry. Experts say this could take about a decade, if there is sufficient industry support.

The goal is to eventually use actual sunlight rather than the artificial light produced at the Juelich experiment, which cost $3.8 million to build and requires as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would use in a year.

Intel goes to Nervana to sort out its intelligence

Chipzilla has put its artificial intelligence efforts into a single business group led by former CEO of Nervana,  Naveen Rao.

For those who came in late, Intel bought Nervana in the firm belief that the next big thing will be AI powered IT innovation and machine learning.

Writing in his bog, Rao outlined how the Artificial Intelligence Products Group will work across multiple units. Part of the group’s remit will be to bring AI costs down and forge standards. Rao said the group will combine engineering, labs, software, and hardware from its portfolio.

Intel is building an AI lab and a centralised organisation, reporting directly to CEO Brian Krzanich, to make it all work.

This is classic organisational strategy, accelerating delivery by creating  a cross-product group directly reporting to the CEO.

Amazon wins tax case

Online bookseller and purveyor of talking radios, Amazon, has won a decade old case against the US taxman.

The Internal Revenue Service wanted Amazon to pay more than $1.5 billion over transactions involving a Luxembourg unit.

Judge Albert Lauber of the US Tax Court rejected a variety of IRS arguments, and found that on several occasions the agency abused its discretion, or acted arbitrarily or capriciously.

The case involved transactions in 2005 and 2006, and could boost its federal tax bill by $1.5 billion plus interest. It also said a loss could add “significant” tax liabilities in later years.

Amazon made just $2.37 billion of profit in 2016, four times what it made in the four prior years combined, on revenue of $136 billion.

In one of the more pot calling the kettle black moves of the US elections, Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump claimed that Amazon did not pay enough taxes and accusing it on Fox News of “getting away with murder tax-wise”.

The IRS case involved “transfer pricing,” which arises when different units of multinational companies transact with each other.

Amazon argued that the IRS overestimated the value of “intangible” assets, such as software and trademarks, it had transferred to a Luxembourg unit, Amazon Europe Holding Technologies SCS.

Amazon did this through a plan called “Project Goldcrest,” to have the “vast bulk” of income from its European businesses taxed in Luxembourg at a “very low rate”.

Amazon has said it may face more tax bills in Europe if authorities in Brussels conclude that prior rulings by Luxembourg tax officials amounted to improper “state aid” that gave it an unfair advantage over rivals.

British school kid corrects Nasa’s figures

A British teenager has been on the blower to Nasa scientists to point out an error in a set of their own data.

Miles Soloman in Sheffield found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data. The correction was said to be “appreciated” by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem.

“What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds,” Soloman told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries.

During UK astronaut Tim Peake’s stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS.

“I went straight to the bottom of the list and I went for the lowest bits of energy there were,” Miles explained.

Miles’s teacher and head of physics, James O’Neill, said: “We were all discussing the data but he just suddenly perked up in one of the sessions and went ‘why does it say there’s -1 energy here?'”

What Miles had noticed was that when nothing hit the detector, a negative reading was recorded. Since you cannot get negative energy. So Soloman and O’Neill contacted Nasa.

It turned out that Miles had noticed something no-one else had – including Nasa.

Nasa said it was aware of the error, but believed it was only happening once or twice a year but Solomon noticed it was happening several times a day.

Lithuanian phishes two big US tech companies

A 48-year-old Lithuanian scammer named Evaldas Rimasauskas managed to trick two American technology companies into wiring him $100 million.

According to the US Department of Justice, Rimasauskas  masqueraded as a prominent Asian hardware manufacturer and tricked employees into depositing tens of millions of dollars into bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, and numerous other countries.

What is amazing about this rather bog standard phishing scam is how much cash he walked away with and the fact it was the IT industry, which should have known better.

The indictment does not name and shame the companies.  The first company is “multinational technology company, specializing in internet-related services and products, with headquarters in the United States”. The second company is a “multinational corporation providing online social media and networking services”.

Both apparently worked with the same “Asia-based manufacturer of computer hardware,” a supplier that the documents indicate was founded some time in the late ’80s.

Representatives at both companies with the power to wire vast sums of money were still tricked by fraudulent email accounts. Rimasauskas even went so far as to create fake contracts on forged company letterhead, fake bank invoices, and various other official-looking documents to convince employees of the two companies to send him money.

Rimasauskas has been charged with one count of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. In other words, he faces serious prison time of convicted — each charge of wire fraud and laundering carries a max sentence of 20 years.

 

Google and Facebook investigated by Israeli tax man

The Israeli Tax Authority has opened an inquiry into the local antics of tech giants Google and Facebook.

The taxmen have conducted meetings with clients of Google, asking detailed questions about the methods used by Google and Facebook to conduct local operations.

Questions put to clients centered around the degree of involvement that local representatives of Google and Facebook had in designing marketing campaigns, and setting budgets and targets for clients.

Basically the Israeli’s are unsure if the Israeli teams were acting independently, or if they were referring business matters to overseas headquarters and then merely implementing corporate decisions in the local market.

Should the investigation conclude with the determination that Google and Facebook Israel teams are independently responsible for activities in the local market, the tax authority may recommend that the companies pay a rather a large tax to the Israeli government for business conducted within the country.

Facebook and Google claim that they operate in Ireland, thereby avoiding paying direct or indirect taxes to the Israeli government.

Research shows that total online advertising expenditures topped $333 million in Israel in 2015, with online taking an ever-expanding segment of budgets from traditional advertising. Of that $333 million, over half was dedicated to spending on social media and search sites, two areas dominated by Facebook and Google.

In April 2016, the Israel Tax Authority unveiled a new set of guidelines regarding tax liability for foreign corporations operating in Israel. Under these rules, an international company would owe taxes if its services were produced in Israel. To prevent double taxation with countries that have international tax agreements with Israel, the foreign corporation must have a permanent establishment within Israel.

A permanent establishment was defined as a physical space used by the business to conduct operations, or a virtual space – including a website – where agents are empowered to conduct local business and enter into contracts on behalf of the corporation.

Farmers turn to hackers to save them from tractor makers

US farmers are paying Eastern European hackers to crack their tractors so that they can actually repair them.

Tractor maker John Deere puts locks on its tractors because it does not want farmers to  perform “unauthorised” repairs on farm equipment. It wants the farmers to wait for one of its dealers to show up and repair it. They are also worried that the tractor maker could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn’t be anything a farmer could do about it.

A licence agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software”.

The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and “authorised” repair shops can work on newer tractors.

However this does not sit well with farmers who feel that if they have bought a tractor they should be allowed to do with it what they like. So they go to some dodgy part of the internet and pay for a crack from the nice man in the Ukraine.

This saves a fortune in time and money. If you want to replace a transmission and you take it to an independent mechanic—he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can’t drive out of the shop. Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorise the part.

 

Trump goes after kitten punching website owner

You would think that with all the messes he is involved with Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump would have better things to do than order a crack down on strange websites, but apparently not.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Trump’s legal team went after kittenfeed.com and its 17-year old founder, Lucy, sending a cease-and-desist letter after the site let users scratch at four photos of the President’s face .

The teenager told The Reporter she built the site while trying to apply for developer jobs, having launched it in February under the name trumpscratch.com, but later changed the address after blowback from the White House.

“I really just want people to be aware that this is a president who’s clearly more concerned about what people think of him than doing things of substance,” Lucy told the entertainment and media-centric website.

“Literally all my site is, is punching him with kitten paws. A president should not have the time or care to hire people to shut sites like mine down. He should be running the country, not tweeting about TV ratings or anything else like that.”