Tag: olympics

Putin’s hackers target the Olympic doping committee

putin gunThe Tsar of all the Russias, Vladimir Putin, has ordered his hackers to take time out from getting his mate Donald Trump elected to wreck a terrible revenge on the Olympic doping committee for disqualifying most of the Russian athletes in the Rio Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) claimed that  Russian hackers gained access to its database and viewed information on athletes involved in this year’s Olympic games. The agency is certain that Putin’s state-sponsored group Fancy Bear crew is behind the attack.

The accessed data included medical information, like Therapeutic Use Exemptions issued by International Sports Federations and National Anti-Doping Organizations. The group has reportedly released some of this data and threatened to release more.

It was not a direct attack. The attackers used spear phishing emails to gain access to the database and eventually used credentials specifically made for the Rio Olympic games. Since the incident, WADA is conducting vulnerability tests and bringing in law enforcement to conduct an investigation.

Fancy Bear was also reported as the group behind this summer’s attack on the Democratic National Committee. In that case, three security firms independently verified the attribution and concluded the attack’s motives related to Russia and the country’s interests.

It is believed that the attack might be revenge for the doping scandal, with the hackers seeking to prove that the world is against Russia because it is really great.

Japan broadcasts 8K

old-school-tvThe Land of the Rising Sun began the world’s first regular 8K television broadcasts this week, five days ahead of the opening of the Olympic Games so that you will be able to watch people being infected with a Zita virus in super high res.

8K are broadcasts with a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 pixels. That’s 16 times the resolution of today’s full high-definition (FHD) broadcasts and four times that of the 4K standard, which is only just emerging in many other countries.

NHK is broadcasting what it calls  “Super Hi-Vision,” also features 22.2-channel surround sound across a satellite channel that will broadcast a mix of 8K and 4K content as it prepares to launch full-scale 8K transmissions in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

The channel will be on air daily from 10am until 5pm, with extended hours during the Rio Olympics.

A look at Monday’s schedule reveals programming focused on the arts, sports, music and documentaries — not dissimilar to early HDTV channels. Highlights of this year’s Rio Carnival, the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, and Japan’s Aomori Nebuta festival were among the 8K programs. A J-pop concert and program on Japanese botanical drawings was also broadcast.

NHK was the broadcaster behind the development of high-definition TV, starting broadcasts in an early analogue format in 1989. It has been working on 8K for two decades. It showed off its 8K in 2002, when many homes hadn’t even transitioned to high-def TV.

It is pretty hard work. Cameras, mixers, recording equipment, monitors and other studio gear must be built to handle uncompressed 8K video in real time, at data rates that can easily reach 100Gbps.

Compression equipment then needs to take that signal and encode it into more efficient streams for broadcast, again in real time. The satellite signal is several tens of megabits per second, and consumer receivers and televisions are required to decode it.


HP pouts over T3 awards snub

Hewlett Packard has been caught trying to wing its way back into the good favour of the T3 Awards panel, after being left off this year’s shortlist.

An internal email from PR agency Edelman – accidentally emailed to journalists – revealed HP is a tad put out about not being included on the list of nominees at the gadget awards bash.

It seems that HP thought it would get an award for the mantlepiece but was removed from the running for some reason.

Edelman is now asking event organisers for a couple of quid off their table booking fee – that or getting HP’s name back on the roll call.  

The email said about the awards: “Following HP’s removal from shortlist at T3 Awards, Edelman to speak to T3 about reducing the price of HP’s table or enquiring into the possibility of re entering HP onto the shortlist for the Awards.”

Edelman was also concerned about Sky 1 TV show Project Runway, which Hewlett Packard has sponsored in the past. The email read: “Edelman to confirm if and what channel/date Project Runway will air in the UK so that a press release can be distributed”.

A fashion journalist commented, to TechEye, on Project Runway: “In blunt terms, it’s s***. It’s just another TV show which aims to make money seemingly promoting the fashion industry. Once the “recruits” have gone through their paces and embarrassed on air, the likelyhood that they’ll get anywhere after the show is small.”

EyeSpy – We notice HP is holding an event at Shoreditch house. We presume we are on the guestlist.

O2 network shambles spells Olympics anxiety for carriers

British carrier O2 has left hundreds of thousands of its customers in the dark with a near network-wide blackout of its services, including voice calls and text messaging. While its customers are furious it spells bigger trouble ahead with the enormous payload of data and network traffic that is going to lean on all providers when the London Olympics kicks off this month.

Infrastructure in the UK has, quite suddenly, been turned on its head. The M4 motorway, a key road between Heathrow and the Olympic park, has been shut down because of a crack in a bridge. Natwest found itself in the midst of disaster as customers were unable to withdraw their money or access their bank accounts. Now, O2 has cut off communications for hundreds and thousands of its customers, altogether, and it is one of the largest carriers in the UK.

So far, so bad. The latest from O2 is that frustrated users should try disabling their 3G connection but this feels like little more than a distraction technique for customers to try as the company’s technicians try desperately to bring systems back online. Now,  it claims to have restored 2G connectivity and users are starting to get their services back.

Mobile networks are clogged anyway. Cisco and other networking giants recognise that there is too much data leaning on the carriers for them to handle or keep as a sustainable model, particularly as more and more smartphones and 3G connections are activated every day, not to mention LTE on the horizon – eventually – on these shores, already established in many corners of the world.

Telecoms analyst house Ovum agrees that there is a looming disaster for the UK under the considerable demand of the Olympics. Steven Hartley, practice leader, warns that there will be enormous network traffic spikes which will put significant pressure on the UK’s mobile networks, which are not exactly considered a shining example of European infratructure already.

“While UK mobile operators claim to be prepared,” Hartley says, “they have not yet given indication of the scale of their plans”.

Hartley does not doubt that mobile capacity upgrades at heavy-use areas will take place. But, he warns, if there is a major public transport failure – and who could consider such a thing in London? – there is a threat of people spilling over from well prepared, high network traffic locations to under-prepared peripheral cells. And this could “prove disastrous”.

Ovum points out that the BBC has plans to stream live video of 27 different events on two Saturdays during the games, while BT admitted it needed to push fixed broadband investments forwards between six to 12 months to deal with the heavy demand.

According to Hartley, where that demand will appear will be difficult to predict and, as a result, fixed and mobile preparations are both difficult to assess.

Technology performance company Compuware draws parallels between the banking problems with Natwest and RBS. Director of IT service management, Michael Allen, said in a statement: “Not being able to make a call will be as serious to many people as not being able to take cash out of the bank.

“Unfortunately, these problems will only continue to increase unless organisations take a fundamentally different approach to the way they manage the peformance of the IT systems we rely on.”

IT systems are getting increasingly complex and independent, so O2 delivering a good service to customers depends on a long list of different components, systems, and applications working together in harmony.

“This can make preventing these types of service disruptions difficult as well as finding the root cause time consuming,” Allen said. “This is why a new approach needs to be taken – companies must manage their IT services in a much more integrated service-centric manner”.

Telecoms software provider, Tektronix Communications, believes the Olympics could pose a serious challenge to operators, and that they must be ready for it. “Operators need to assure the connected experience for the long haul,” Lyn Cantor, president of the company, said.

Threats of a less mundane nature cast their shadow over the Olympics, too, if MI5 chief Jonathan Evans is to be believed. Just one month before the national security spend-a-thon of London 2012 opens its doors to the world, he announced the UK faces an “astonishing” cyber security threat.

Meanwhile, software expert Professor Robert Dewar told TechEye unmanned drones have not been thoroughly tested in UK airspace and there is a slim, but real chance that a software failure could threaten a nasty surprise to the people of London.

MI5 chief: Cyber attack threat is "astonishing"

MI5 chief Jonathan Evans has warned that there is an “astonishing” level of threat posed by cyber attacks on business and government infrastructure in the UK.

In a speech at Mansion House, the MI5 director general highlighted the increase in malicious activity that is being carried out on an “industrial scale”, and in many cases committed by nation states.

As Bit9 pointed out to us in April, hybrid private-public partnerships are sniffing out crucial intellectual property and siphoning off commercial secrets to nation states. According to the company, every single Fortune 500 firm is under threat.

Evans said that the threat had been reaching greater prominence over the past four years –  with a number of high profile incidents occurring during this time – and both businesses and government were being attacked “aggressively”.

“This is a threat to the integrity, confidentiality and availability of government information but also to business and to academic institutions,” Evans said.

“What is at stake is not just our government secrets but also the safety and security of our infrastructure,” Evans said, “the intellectual property that underpins our future prosperity and the commercially sensitive information that is the lifeblood of our companies and corporations.”

Evans pointed to one “major London listed company” which had been fleeced for £800 million as a result of a state sponsored cyber attack.   

The attack resulted in intellectual property loss and led to a commercial disadvantage as the firm’s corporate secrets were leaked.  Evans warned that “they will not be the only corporate victim of these problems”.

He warned that as we move into the connected internet of things, the ability for cyber criminals to wreak havoc with critical infrastructure will increase. This could lead to the risk of real world damage, not just data loss.

Ahead of the London Olympic Games, Evans warned that while terrorists have not succeeded in cyber attacks as part of their arsenal so far, they are certainly aware of the potential to do so.

Security expert at Sophos, Graham Cluley, told us that signs of increased cyber threats have been evident for some time now.

“I suppose it is astonishing to the average man in the street who may not realise that this kind of thing is happening regularly every day, but hopefully not too astonishing to the head of MI5,” he said, speaking with TechEye.

“It is a real threat, whether it is financially motivated cyber crime or Anonymous groups for instance, or indeed state-sponsored cyber crime,” he said.

Cluley believes that the government will be on high alert for any such attacks at the costly Olympics.

“The reason for the timing of this speech is the run up of the Olympics, where they put a fair amount of investment into protecting the infrastructure there,” he said.

Political hacktivists are a prime threat causing havoc at such an event, Cluley said, and there could be “egg on faces” if systems are not locked down enough.

Chris McIntosh, CEO at Viasat UK, warned that there must be protective measures in place if the country wants to avoid any potential disasters.

“More needs to be done to mitigate the threat of such actions, whether pre-emptive action, data protection or technologies such as encryption,” McIntosh said. “Otherwise we are sure to see not only the private sector but government and military organisations being put at risk, with devastating impact on UK organisations.”

Unmanned drones pose Olympic risk

London residents may be concerned about the military sticking missiles on top of their roofs over the Olympics, but that might not be only danger from the skies at the Games.

According to Professor Robert Dewar, former Emeritus Professor at New York University  and founder of software firm AdaCore, rumoured plans to use unmanned aerial drones to monitor crowds at the events could have catastrophic consequences.

He believes that there are concerns that unmanned aircraft could malfunction if the software code used in operating them is not up to a sufficiently high standard.

“We do have to worry about them falling down on somebody’s head,” he said, speaking with TechEye.  “The repercussions from an accident of that kind at the Olympics would be huge, it would set back the cause for using drones for surveillance indefinitely, I would expect.”

“The consequences of misjudging it are very significant,” Dewar said. “If someone was to be injured due to a drone crashing, it would really be a major issue, and the Olympics would be remembered for that incident.”

While there has been no official confirmation that drones will be used by the police to monitor crowds during the games, there has been speculation in the press, and Dewar is concerned that without proper planning the drones could present a risk.

This is mainly down to the lack of industry recognised regulation and certification of the software code used in aircraft. Dewar thinks that before any drones are used in a civilian setting they should be tested to the industry standard with regards to the safety and reliability of software code.  

According to Dewar, most drone testing has been in warzones, and in these settings there safety regulations are not considered as necessary. Before transitioning to civilian use, more time needs to be taken to ensure safety.

“There are lots of examples of software malfunctioning spectacularly,” Dewar warns. This is often down to standard industry development that is business critical rather than safety critical.

While one might expect Windows to crash every now and again, he contends, the implications for aircraft are – obviously – much more serious.

“We take it for granted that all manned aircraft needs that level of care,” Dewar said, “so what is the argument for being less rigorous in the case of unmanned aircraft?”

In the USA, although there is interest for using drones for policing applications, the government will not authorise them until they have met clearance from the regulatory body, the FAA. In the UK, so far, there has been no commitment to meeting regulations put forward by the Civil Aviation Authority. 

“In the States the FAA have taken a very adamant position that these things are not going to fly around in commercial airspace unless the software is certified,” Dewar said, “and unless the hardware is tested to the standards of commercial hardware.”

“Unless that software goes through the same rigorous regulation that other aircraft would go through, it is hard to trust that it is completely reliable,” he said.

UK police trials have not always been successful, according to Dewar.

“In one case they managed to lose one in a river, and never found it again,” he said. “You have to wonder that if a drone could fall in a river, it could fall on someone’s head.”  

“The Olympics is far too early to be considering this technology,” Dewar said. “I think we have an important discussion and debate to occur over the next few years of all the implications of using drones”.

Tube wi-fi almost double home broadband speed

With free tube station wi-fi turned on for the Olympics, Londoners may soon be heading underground to get a decent connection.

Earlier this month a handful of London tube stations had wi-fi hotspots turned on, with Euston, Kings Cross, Oxford Circus, and other busy stations providing temporarily free internet through Virgin Broadband.

Research into the download speeds of certain stations shows that commuters and tourists crammed onto platforms will be enjoying faster speeds than they would with their home broadband.

The average download speed for the tube is 12.7Mb, fast enough to watch highlights of Woy’s Boys at Euro 2012 while avoiding pickpockets, or some live Olympics footage while waiting for one of the Capital’s ambling trains to turn up.  

While tourists over for the Games might be impressed, these speeds compare rather favourable to that of the average UK household, limping like an asthmatic 100m sprinter into a last place finish with a meagre 7.6 Mb.

In comparison, Euston station had an average download of 14.59Mb, while Victoria had an average upload speed of 13.53Mb, Broadbandchoices.co.uk pointed out. Whether these speeds stay when legions of Olympics fans turn up is another matter.

Despite some dissent from the natives, it seems that the ability to use the internet at stations – though not on the Tube itself – will be popular.

Of course, while the tourist-pleasing wi-fi may be free throughout the month, those living here will have to shell out for the service once the Olympics come to an end.

London Olympics traffic problem solved: 'sleeping pods' at work

In this age of austerity, data centre services company, Interxion, thinks it has come up with an innovative way to beat the traffic when the Olympics tourists flood London this Summer.

While the champagne drinkers who occupy parliament suggested simply going out for dinner every single night until the Olympics are over, Interxion has a more pragmatic approach for workers. Instead of having to deal with the tedium of the tube or forking out for that wallet-sapping congestion charge, its engineers have been given access to temporary bedrooms: Japanese-style ‘sleeping pods’.

Forget BYOD, Interxion is pioneering Bring Your Own Bed.

File away troublesome employees in enormous filing cabinets as they sleep


Not only do the pods offer “comfort”, “privacy”, and “security”, the real dealbreaker is that they can keep staff on site 24/7. Saving potentially hundreds on Oyster top-ups and London Underground travel cards, workers will be able to clock off from a day’s work by climbing into their personal sleeping tubes and quietly nodding off to the relaxing hum of a busy data centre.

In this connected world, engineers can be on call at all times, but with the pods, they can avoid the hassle of going home and coming all the way back to work by kipping on the job.

No sex please, we’re wage slaves

Interxion’s UK managing director, Greg McCulloch, said in a statement: “Due to the nature of our business we need to be ready for all eventualities and while we are excited to have the Olympics in London we also need to be sure that we can continue to offer the highest level of resilience to our customers. The installation of the sleeping pods is another great example of Interxion putting resilience and uptime at the forefront of everything it does.”

Foxtons estimates these pods are renting for up to £1 million each during the Olympics

Perhaps we are being a little unfair to Interxion. A similarly sized studio flat in the area costs approximately £100,000, so it is sitting on some prime real estate. 

Interxion’s data centre, based just off trendy Brick Lane, is perfectly placed to local amenities with a Tesco’s Express and a Sainsbury’s Local in walking distance, along with plenty of  bars and only ten minutes walk to the buzzing nightlife of Shoreditch – and just five minutes away from the tourist friendly, famous curries of Banglatown.

Apple and Lonely Planet depose BoJo as London mayor

This time of the year, Apple and its generous partners give away an app each day for the 12 days of Christmas. The iTunes 12 Days of Christmas.

Christmas giveaways this year included games from EA, a One Direction single and stuff like that. Today’s is Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2012 , which points out the best places to go for the new year and why. London’s on the list and Lonely Planet thinks there are some very good reasons to visit.

Ken Livingstone’s campaigning team will be happy with their Christmas present from Apple, because Lonely Planet has decided that tourists coming to London in 2012 will be visiting his city…

Did you spot it? Under the “recent fad” section (page 96), it says: “Londoners have been quick to embrace Boris Bikes. Informally named after the former mayor who launched the scheme, Boris Johnson…”

TV makers convince themselves about sporting sales boost

With major sports events drawing in massive numbers of viewers, TV manufacturers often latch on with promotional deals to rake in extra cash with tie-ins.

This year Toshiba piggy-backed on the Rugby World Cup with a deal which involved those purchasing a TV set receiving £1 cash back for each point egg-chaser Toby Flood scored. It is often the case that manufacturers target those with a plan to camp out in the living room for that year’s World Cup, Wimbledon or whichever event occurs at the start of that summer.

This year, of course, it is the London Olympics that we can probably expect TV firms to hype up, presumably offering a quid back for every shot of Kate and Wills, or toilet stop by Paula Radcliffe this year.

According to DigiTimes though, despite a major seven year replacement cycle reaching its end this year at the Olympics, there is unlikely to be a big rush to buy up brand new products.

This is partly due to the ongoing global financial woes, sources say, which mean that the cash just won’t be available for upgrades.  Industry sources also reckon that the popularity of handheld mobile devices will temper demand, with increased interest in watching on an iPad than on a sparkly new TV set.

TechEye approached high street TV vendors which said that despite the interest in sporting events they did not necessarily see massive changes in consumer spending.  According to Dixons, sales staff there is a “slight increase” in the amount of TVs sold around the time of sporting events but no major impact.  Both Currys and Dixons expect that promotions will be ramped up around the time.

According to display expert at Meko, Bob Raikes, this is just part of a self-fulfilling prophecy where the industry splashes out on advertising – inevitably leading to increases in sales – rather than a natural spike in consumer spending.

“It is basically a fable in the industry that there is an increase,” Raikes told TechEye.  “Every two years there is either a World Cup or a European Championships and Olympics, but it is basically wrong that it causes that much of an impact. It does have some impact but this is mainly because the belief in the industry that it has an effect leads to greater advertising around this period.”

Raikes says the second quarter of the year is typically quite quiet, “but these major sporting events bring about a change in seasonal pattern, with sales being moved forward from the third quarter to the second instead.”

Raikes believes, however, that the current increase in sales could make even less of an impact in the long term: “If you go back maybe five, but certainly ten, years ago the main way to watch events was at home.  Now there are more sports bars and there is a big increase in the amount of people attending large screenings of events.

“This could serve to further lessen the effect of those buying sets for a sporting event as the people who are likely to attend a big screening are also likely to be those who would buy specifically for an event.”