Tag: UK

Russian hackers might have gamed Brexit

A website which allowed Britons to register to vote in last year’s European Union referendum might have been targeted by Russian hackers who crashed it before the deadline.

A committee of British MPs said that more than a million potential voters applied to register online in the run up to the deadline two weeks before last June’s vote and the government extended the cut-off point after the website crashed, blaming it on a late rush by mainly young citizens.

But parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) said it did not rule out the possibility that the crash was caused by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber attack.

“PACAC is deeply concerned about these allegations about foreign interference,” said the report.

The committee said that the interference would not have changed the outcome, but it was rather disconcerting anyway.

Russia has been accused of trying to influence the 2016 U.S. election and the committee said the government needed to ensure future elections and referendums were monitored with plans in pace to respond to and contain any cyber-attacks.

The report said that Russia and China use a cognitive approach based on understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals.

“The implications of this different understanding of cyber-attack, as purely technical or as reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion, for the interference in elections and referendums are clear.”

The committee was also critical of the government’s failure to prepare for a vote for Brexit and former Prime Minister David Cameron’s motives for calling the referendum in the first place, saying using plebiscites as a “bluff call” to close “unwelcome debate” was questionable.

“There was no proper planning for a Leave vote so the EU referendum opened up much new controversy and left the prime minister’s credibility destroyed,” the report said.

UK sorts out insurance for self-driving cars

accidentcarinwashingtondcThe UK plans to introduce new insurance rules to ensure victims of accidents involving self-driving cars are compensated quickly.

The move will remove a major obstacle for the nascent industry. Self-driving car introduction has been hampered by legal hurdles in several countries as insurers and legislators try to establish who would ultimately be responsible in the event of an accident.

Transport Minister Chris Grayling said the public needed to be protected in the event of an incident and the framework to allow insurance for these new technologies will be out this week.

A single insurance product will be available to cover a driver when a vehicle is being used conventionally, as well as when the car is being used in autopilot mode, the transport ministry said in a statement.

The Blighty government wants to encourage the development and testing of autonomous driving technology to build an industry to serve a market it reckons could be worth about $1.1 trillion worldwide by 2025.

Japanese carmaker Nissan is due to test autonomous cars in London later this month after initial tests on public roads in the southern English town of Milton Keynes late last year.

The UK will also set out plans to improve infrastructure such as charging points for electric vehicles, the fastest growing sector for new car sales in the country and key to meeting environmental targets.

UK politicians exempt themselves from RIPA

Houses of Parliament, Wikimedia CommonsPoliticians have exempted themselves from Britain’s new wide-ranging spying laws.

The Investigatory Powers Act, which has just passed into law, brings some of the most extreme and invasive surveillance powers ever given to spies in a democratic state.

But, buried in the small print of the law, MPs voted themselves a get out clause which will save them from having the porn collections and illegal business deals from being made public.

The new law requires that those using them must be given a warrant. If a copper wants a to see someone’s full internet browsing history, they must ask the secretary of state to give them access to the IPSs records.

But members of parliament and other politicians have insisted that extra rules have been introduced. This will require the warrants must be approved by the prime minister. This means that the PM can decide if she really wants a treasured cabinet minister to be forced to spend more time with his family pending a court decision for forming an improper relationship with a known terrorist or a farm yard animal by squashing an investigation.

That rule applies not only to members of the Westminster parliament but also politicians in the devolved assembly and members of the European Parliament.

To be fair the protections afforded to politicians were less than they wanted. Earlier in the process, the only amendment that MPs had submitted was one that would allow extra safeguards for politicians – forcing any request to monitor MP’s communications to go through the speaker of the House of Commons as well as the prime minister.

VPN outfits expect to make a fortune out of Theresa May

teresa may evilVPN outfits are rubbing their paws with glee thanks to the UK government’s Investigatory Powers Bill.

Theresa May and her Conservative minions hope to save the UK from terrorists by insisting that ISPs keep detailed records of their customer’s online doings.

The Investigatory Powers Bill was approved by the House of Lords on 19 November and is due to become law before the end of 2016.

Now, several virtual private network (VPN) operators have seized on its introduction to promote their offerings.

For those who don’t know, VPNs digitally scramble a user’s internet traffic and send it to one of their own servers before passing it on to a site or app in a form they can make sense of. ISPs would only have a log to the VPN.

The VPNs can be based outside the UK in countries with no data retention laws.  Even if servers are confiscated, there would be nothing on them. To make matters worse for Mrs May, the UK government would find it difficult to prevent the use of such workarounds.

While the legislation specifically mentions connection service providers and not just ISPs, and the assumption is that VPNs based in the UK must give up their logs under this law. However that does not apply to foreign companies who can just ignore it.

Even if the UK government made VPN’s illegal, it could not stop those services being available.  Lots of businesses use VPNs to provide staff with remote access to their email and other work-related files would also make it difficult to restrict the technology’s use.


Wrong sort of virus shuts down three UK hospitals

t9v4906 750xx1100-1467-0-0Malware has forced three UK hospitals to cancel routine operations and outpatient appointments.

The Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust says a “major incident” has been caused by a “computer virus” which infected its electronic systems over weekend.

The hospital has taken the decision to shut down the majority of its computer networks in order to combat the virus.

Dr Karen Dunderdale, the trust’s deputy chief executive said that the hospital following expert advice, had shut down most its systems so it could be isolated and destroyed.

The use of a shared IT system also means the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has been taken offline as staff attempt to combat the attack.

Outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures that were set to take place at the infected hospitals on Monday and Tuesday have been cancelled, while medical emergencies involving major trauma and women in high-risk labour are being diverted to neighbouring hospitals.

Some areas, including audiology psiological measurement, antenatal, community and therapy, chemotherapy, paediatrics, and gynaecology, are still going.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust says it is reviewing the situation on an hourly basis and offers its apologies to patients who are being affected.

It is unclear what the “virus” is, or whether or not is ransomware which is fast becoming the tool of choice of hackers.



Briggs report calls for online courts

high-court-london-2 Lord Justice Briggs’  report into the Civil Courts has been published, including a section on the proposed online civil court.

Briggs has given his backing to the pilot online court scheme, which could results in tens of thousands of cases being dealt with annually online.

He said: “The online court project offers a radically new and different procedural and cultural approach to the resolution of civil disputes.”

For a start it will be a lot cheaper to run and will mean that people will not have to spend a fortune on lawyers.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said: “Lord Justice Briggs has delivered a detailed and innovative final report, which the senior judiciary – working with the government and HM Courts and Tribunal Service – will now consider with care.

“While a number of the reforms being recommended are already an integral part of the HMCTS reform programme, such as the online court, the report has benefited from wide consultation which will help to improve the design and planning of those reforms.

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, with whom Lord Thomas jointly commissioned the review, said: “The civil justice system is facing a number of challenges and pressures, of which Lord Justice Briggs has provided a masterly analysis. He has given us ample food for thought on how the system can be modernised and made more efficient.


UK allows drones

While it is still years away in the US, Amazon is allowed to try drone delivery in the UK.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority gave Amazon permission to test several key drone delivery parameters. This includes sending drones beyond the line of sight of their operator in rural and suburban areas, testing sensor performance to make sure the drones can identify and avoid obstacles and allowing a single operator to manage multiple highly-automated drones.

In the US, commercial drones weighing up to 55 pounds can fly during daylight hours but they must remain within sight of the operator or an observer who is in communication with the operator. The operators must pass an aeronautics test every 24 months for a certificate as well as a background check by the Transportation Security Administration.

But apparently the UK is a leader in drone innovation, after all we recently promoted one to foreign secretary and this is mostly because Amazon has a Prime Air research and development facility in the country.

Amazon’s goal is to use drones to deliver packages up to five pounds to customers in 30 minutes or less. Of course with Britexit something costing five pounds a pound will end up being the pound.

Coppers breach cyber security for fun and profit

largeMore than 800 coppers have breached the rules regarding the police data base either for a laugh or to make a bit of dosh, according to a watchdog’s report.

Big Brother Watch said that UK police staff inappropriately accessed personal information between June 2011 and December 2015.

The report, which is based on Freedom of Information requests sent to all UK police forces, raises questions about the police’s ability to protect civilian data. In one case a Metropolitan Police officer found the name of a victim so funny that he attempted to take a photo of the driving licence and send it to his friend over Snapchat. In another case a Greater Manchester Police officer tipped someone off that they would be arrested, and one from North Yorkshire Police conducted a check on a vehicle on his phone whilst off-duty. A South Wales Police copper was dismissed after photographing and distributing restricted documents “for personal gain,” the report said.

The worry is if the coppers are doing these sorts of things now what are they going to get up to when they can see people’s internet records, which will become possible under the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill.

Given that some of the information was leaked to organised crime groups, it is possible to see a bent cop supplying such types with blackmail information.

The coppers seem a bit lax when it comes to disciplining officers involved in such caused. The majority of incidents, 1,283, ended up with no disciplinary action taking place, while 297 ended in a resignation or dismissal, 258 resulted in a written or verbal warning, and 70 led to a criminal conviction or caution.


UK has the world’s fastest mobile internet

flash_superhero_running-t2Its government might have collapsed and opposition in disarray following Brexit, but the UK can pat itself on the back for having the world’s fastest mobile broadband.

According to data and graphics from the First Quarter, 2016 State of the Internet Report, which can be found on the Akamai State of the Internet site the average mobile connection speed in the UK was 27.9 Mbps making it the world’s best. The world’s worst was the 2.2 Mbps Algerians have to suffer from.

The United States’ average speed was 5.1 Mbps, which was lower than Turkey, Kenya, and Paraguay, and on par with Thailand. Many European countries more than doubled the average U.S. speed, including Slovakia with 13.3 Mbps, France with 11.5 Mbps, and Germany with 15.7 Mbps.

The report said that Global average connection speed increased 12 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2015 to 6.3 Mbps, a 23 per cent increase year over year.

Global average peak connection speed increased 6.8 per cent to 34.7 Mbps in the first quarter, rising 14 per cent year over year.

Global 10 Mbps grew by ten percent, 15 Mbps grew by 14 per cent, and 25 Mbps broadband adoption grew by 19 per cent.

This are expected to hot up this quarter as the internet prepare to watch the Olympic games in Brazil, with expectations that this year’s events will be watched by more online viewers than ever.

David Belson, editor of the State of the Internet Report. ‘Global connection speeds have more than doubled since the summer of 2012, which can help support higher quality video streaming for bigger audiences across even more connected devices and platforms.’

The number of unique IPv4 addresses connecting to the Akamai Intelligent Platform declined 0.2 per cent to 808 million.

Belgium remained the clear global leader in IPv6 adoption with 36 per cent of its connections to Akamai occurring over IPv6, down 3.1 per cent from the previous quarter.


China makes supercomputer without US chips

Mao Tse Tung - Wikimedia CommonsThe People’s Republic of China has made a huge supercomputer without needing to buy any US chips.

The Sunway TaihuLight China has 10.65 million compute cores built entirely with Chinese microprocessors and there is not a single US computer which matches it. The TaihuLight sticks two fingers up at the US for banning the sale of Intel’s Xeon chips to China.

The super computer has a theoretical peak performance is 124.5 petaflops and it is the first system to exceed 100 petaflops.

TaihuLight is installed at China’s National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, uses ShenWei CPUs developed by Jiangnan Computing Research Lab in Wuxi. The operating system is a Linux-based Chinese system called Sunway Raise.

It is used for advanced manufacturing, earth systems modelling, life science and big data applications.

The US initiated this ban because China, it claimed, was using its Tianhe-2 system for nuclear explosive testing activities. The US stopped live nuclear testing in 1992 and now relies on computer simulations. Critics in China suspected the U.S. was acting to slow that nation’s supercomputing development efforts.

The fastest US supercomputer, number 3 on the Top500 list, is the Titan, a Cray supercomputer at US Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory with a theoretical peak of about 27 petaflops.