Articles by "Technology"

The system, called KOI-961, hosts the three smallest exoplanets known so far. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA revealed Monday 10 new rocky, Earth-sized planets that could potentially have liquid water and support life.
The Kepler mission team released a survey of 219 potential exoplanets -- planets outside of our solar system -- that had been detected by the space observatory launched in 2009 to scan the Milky Way galaxy.
Ten of the new discoveries were orbiting their suns at a distance similar to Earth's orbit around the sun, the so-called habitable zone that could potentially have liquid water and sustain life.
Kepler has already discovered 4,034 potential exoplanets, 2,335 of which have been confirmed by other telescopes as actual planets.
The 10 new Earth-size planets bring the total to 50 that exist in habitable zones around the galaxy.
"This carefully-measured catalog is the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy's most compelling questions -- how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?" said Susan Thompson, a Kepler research scientist and lead author of the latest study.
The latest findings were released at the Fourth Kepler and K2 science conference being held this week at NASA's Ames research center in California.
The Kepler telescope detects the presence of planets by registering minuscule drops in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it, a movement known as a transit.
The findings were compiled from data gathered during the first four years of the mission, which scientists processed to determine the size and composition of the planets observed.
The scientists found that the newly discovered planets tended to fall into two distinct categories -- smaller, rocky planets that are usually around 75 percent bigger than Earth, and much larger, gaseous planets similar in size to Neptune.
NASA said the latest catalog is the most complete and detailed survey of potential exoplanets yet compiled. The telescope has studied some 150,000 stars in the Cygnus constellation, a survey which NASA said is now complete.

A handout artist impression released by the European Southern Observatory on April 19, 2017 shows a planet located in the liquid water habitable zone surrounding its host star, a small, faint red star named LHS 1140 and depicted in blue is the atmosphere the planet may have retained. (Photo by AFP)

"The Kepler data set is unique, as it is the only one containing a population of these near Earth-analogs -- planets with roughly the same size and orbit as Earth," said Mario Perez of NASA's Astrophysics Division. "Understanding their frequency in the galaxy will help inform the design of future NASA missions to directly image another Earth."
As of next year, NASA will continue its scan of the galaxy using Kepler's successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which will spend two years observing the 200,000 brightest nearby stars for Earth-like worlds.
Scientists also hope the James Webb Space telescope, which will replace the Hubble telescope in 2018, will be able to detect the molecular make-up of atmospheres of exoplanets, including the possibility of finding signatures of potential life forms.

California woman, Si Chen, is held for conspiring to smuggle technology to China. (File photo by Reuters)
A woman from the US state of California has been arrested on charges of conspiring to smuggle sensitive space communications technology to her home country of China.
Si Chen, also known as Cathy Chen, was arraigned following her apprehension on Tuesday, standing accused of procuring and illegally exporting more than $100,000 worth of sensitive communications devices between March 2013 and December 2015 without obtaining proper export licenses required by the US federal law.
The indictment accuses Chen of 14 counts of charges, including the violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which controls and restricts the export of certain goods and technology from the US to foreign nations.
The items included components commonly used in military communications "jammers" from which Chen removed the export-control warning stickers prior to shipping, according to the court papers.
"Federal export laws are designed to protect American interests by preventing the proliferation of technology that may fall into the wrong hands," acting US Attorney Sandra Brown said in a statement. "We will vigorously pursue those who traffic items that could harm our national security if they land in the wrong hands."
The 32-year-old defendant is also charged with conspiracy, money laundering, making false statements on an immigration application, and using a forged passport.
Authorities said Chen had employed several aliases and used a Chinese passport in a bid to conceal her alleged smuggling activities on behalf of unnamed co-conspirators in China.
The products included microwave components that had applications in space technology and a so-called Traveling Wave Tube Amplifier used in space communications.
The indictment noted that after Chen purchased the restricted goods and technology, she would ship them to Hong Kong in parcels that bore her false name, along with false product descriptions and monetary values.
If convicted of the 14 charges in the indictment, Chen would face up to 150 years in prison, prosecutors said.

ATCON President, Olusola Teniola, said the cloud computing market is a fast growing one within the ICT sector, and that South Africa infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa is more mature and advanced in terms of capacity build and running operating costs.
. Stakeholders call for improved power generation
The combination of poor power generating capacity; harsh business climate; foreign exchange volatility; high level corruption, and a host of others, have caused Nigeria to lose a major Information and Communications Technology (ICT) investment to South Africa.
Specifically, the investment, which is worth about $30 billion had to do with the citing of two Data Centres by Microsoft in two South African cities of Johannesburg, and Cape Town, at the expense of Nigeria and other parts of the Continent.
The Senior Programme Manager, Microsoft Azure’s Blockchain-as-a-Service, Michael Glaros, at a forum in Lagos, hinted that the firm spent about $15 billion on each of its Data Centre infrastructure across the globe.
Microsoft has Data Centres covering 40 regions across the globe, more regions than any other cloud provider. The implication of Nigeria missing this investment, according to The Guardian investigation is that a single Data Centre is cable of creating between 5,000 and 10,000 jobs directly and indirectly.
This means that if Microsoft had considered Nigeria, significant amount of jobs would have been created and the ever growing unemployment gap in the country would have been further bridged.
Besides, such gigantic investment could also have helped Nigeria in developing its knowledge economy. Indeed, Microsoft revealed at the weekend, plans to deliver a complete, intelligent Microsoft Cloud for the first time from Data Centres located in Africa.
This new investment is a major milestone in the company’s mission to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more, and recognition of the enormous opportunity for digital transformation in Africa.
The firm explained that expanding on existing investments, Microsoft will deliver cloud services, including Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics 365, from Data centres located in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa with initial availability anticipated in 2018.
The Executive Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise Group, Microsoft Corp, Scott Guthrie, said the firm is excited about the growing demand for cloud services in Africa and their ability to be a catalyst for new economic opportunities.
“With cloud services ranging from intelligent collaboration to predictive analytics, the Microsoft Cloud delivered from Africa will enable developers to build new and innovative apps, customers to transform their businesses, and governments to better serve the needs of their citizens.”
This development is coming a year after The Guardian reported that South Africa and Egypt got the Samsung manufacturing plants ahead of Nigeria. Samsung had cited economies of scale, improved infrastructure; dependable power generation system and tax reliefs, among others for the choice of South Africa and Egypt.
Though, the South Korean never ruled out the possibility of citing a manufacturing plant in Nigeria, the firm however, disclosed that the Egypt’s plant would serve Nigeria and other West African countries, while the South African plant would cater for the region and part of East Africa.
Sources in the know of the Microsoft plan, claimed that the same challenges of poor infrastructure, insecurity; poor power generation, corruption; Naira instability, economic slowdown, among others contributed to investments flights from Nigeria to South Africa.
Reacting to the development, a telecoms analyst, Kehinde Aluko, said Microsoft shouldn’t be blamed for taking its investment to where it will get maximum profit yield.
“Now, let’s look at it from this perspective, a 21st Century Data Centre run on efficient and reliable power supply. Do we have power in Nigeria? We are still struggling since the beginning of this democracy to attain 5000 megawatts (MW), whereas South Africa has generated power in excess of 40,000MW. How do we explain the trillions of Naira that had gone down the drain all in the name of fixing the power sector?” he asked.
According to Aluko, Nigeria’s economy is worse off now, the Naira refused to stabilise; policies are not sustained and above all, “the level of corruption in this country is grieving.”
Like Aluko, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, said the cloud computing market is a fast growing one within the ICT sector, and that South Africa infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa is more mature and advanced in terms of capacity build and running operating costs.
“It is the cost of doing business in Nigeria that doesn’t yet make sense for the likes of Microsoft to want to invest in Nigeria. Currently, the cost of maintaining a fully functional Tier3 Data Centre is more than 35 per cent of like-for-like just on power management alone,” Teniola stated.

Besides, the ATCON President said the skills set and capacity building also plays into South Africa’s hands, saying that most recently, Facebook opened its African presence in South Africa, even though Nigeria hosts the greatest number of Facebook users in the Continent.
He advised government to make the cost of doing business in Nigeria not only cost effective but easier. He said government also needs to promote the current Tier3 data centre facilities that already exist in the country; enforce data sovereignty and local data presence of its citizens.
Giving insight into what a Data Centre operation looks like, the General Manager, MainOne Data Centre, Gbenga Adegbiji, said such are very critical infrastructure.
Adegbiji told The Guardian that as ICT becomes more pervasive, there is need for Data centers to store data generated to enhance processes.

Facebook sees 54,000 revenge porn cases a month, documents have revealed. Photo / AP
Facebook received tens of thousands of potential "sextortion" and "revenge porn" cases a month, leaked company documents show.
The 100-page handbook Facebook gives to moderators reveals the social network receives swathes of reports regarding abusive sexual material, an area where they "make most mistakes".
The documents, leaked to the Guardian, show Facebook users reported almost 54,000 incidents of sexual extortion and revenge porn in January, with the company disabling 14,130 accounts as a result. Moderators escalated 33 cases for involving children.
The files also also reveal that Facebook will not delete videos and images depicting violence, self-harm and child abuse of a non-sexual nature, since they may draw attention to mental illness or be newsworthy. In some cases, it allows footage portraying physical bullying of children under 7.

Revenge porn, which involves intimate images being shared online after a relationship ends, has been a criminal act in the UK since 2015. Offenders face up to two years in prison if convicted of sharing "private, sexual images of someone without consent and with the intent to cause distress".Recent changes suggest Facebook has only started to ban abusive posts about disabled people and those with serious health conditions in the last few months.
It is not clear how many cases Facebook passed to the police. The figures for sextortion and revenge porn, which Facebook deems as serious as child exploitation and terrorism, are international and only reflect incidents that have been reported by users. The scale of the problem could be significantly greater if there are a large number of cases not reported.
A source admitted Facebook moderators find it difficult to police sextortion and revenge porn material, "Sexual policy is the one where moderators make the most mistakes," an unnamed source told the Guardian. "It is very complex."
Facebook has been criticised numerous times for censoring posts that it deems to be of a sexual nature that are in fact newsworthy or harmless.
It recently updated its policies after an outcry when it deleted a post containing the Pulitzer prize-winning "Napalm girl" photo posted by Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
It has also reinstated images of mothers breastfeeding and virile works of art, claiming to have removed them mistakenly.

The Japanese telecom conglomerate is investing $28 billion and has agreements with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co. and Apple Inc.

SoftBank Group Corp. secured the first capital commitment to a $100 billion fund with Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi that would eventually put its founder Masayoshi Son in charge of one of technology’s biggest investment vehicles.
The Japanese telecom conglomerate is investing $28 billion and has agreements with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co. and Apple Inc. With more than $93 billion committed, the fund — which includes Qualcomm Inc., Foxconn Technology Group and Sharp Corp. — aims to reach $100 billion within six months, SoftBank said in a statement Saturday. Mubadala committed $15 billion, according to a separate statement.
The Vision Fund will seek long-term investments in businesses aimed at innovation. SoftBank has relied on borrowing and earnings from its domestic telecom operations to pay for investments in startups in India, U.S. and China while dealing with losses at U.S. subsidiary Sprint Corp. By tapping outside investors, billionaire Son will be able to cut more ambitious deals than he could on his own.
“SoftBank has long made bold investments in transformative technologies and supported disruptive entrepreneurs,” Son said in the statement. “The SoftBank Vision Fund is consistent with this strategy and will help build and grow businesses creating the foundational platforms of the next stage of the Information Revolution.”
Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, chief executive officer of Mubadala, said the SoftBank fund “perfectly complements” the company’s strategy to become an investor in high-growth technology companies.
Technology Targets
Son has made tens of billions from investments in companies including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Yahoo and Supercell Oy, and the new fund will likely pursue a similar strategy of backing technology companies at all stages. The focus may well be the U.S. after Son met with President Donald Trump in December and pledged to create 50,000 new jobs by investing $50 billion in startups and new companies.
Among the fund’s first investments are an acquisition of a 25 percent stake in SoftBank’s ARM Holdings Plc and its investment in satellite startup OneWeb Ltd.
SoftBank Vision Fund will be based in West London’s Mayfair. The Japanese company named Rajeev Misra, its head of strategic finance, to lead the project. Jonathan Bullock, chief operating officer of SoftBank International, and Alok Sama, SoftBank’s chief financial officer, have also been appointed senior advisers.
The shares of SoftBank are up about 25 percent since the fund was announced in October, buoyed by the prospects it would ease the strain on the Japanese company’s balance sheet. Son’s appetite for deals has left SoftBank with a record $130 billion debt load, one of the heaviest in Japan.

Ahmed Mohamed, who was 14 at the time, became an internet sensation after being handcuffed and detained for hours for bringing his “invention” — a circuit board wired to a digital display — to school in the Texas city of Irving, near Dallas (AFP Photo/ASHRAF SHAZLY)<br />More
A court in Texas has dismissed a lawsuit by the family of a Muslim teen who was invited to the White House by Barack Obama after having constructed a clock that police mistook for a bomb.
Ahmed Mohamed, who was 14 at the time, became an internet sensation after being handcuffed and detained for hours for bringing his “invention” — a circuit board wired to a digital display — to school in the Texas city of Irving, near Dallas.
He was charged with making a “hoax bomb,” though the charge was later dropped. Ahmed said he merely wanted to show his work to a new teacher to impress her.
The Irving school system suspended Ahmed for three days even after determining that his clock was harmless. The lawsuit contended he was discriminated against because of his race or religion (his parents immigrated from Sudan).
But in a decision Thursday, federal judge Sam Lindsay found that the plaintiffs had offered no facts “from which this court can reasonably infer that any (Irving school district) employee intentionally discriminated against A.M. based on his race or religion.”
An attorney representing the Mohameds said they planned to appeal the decision.
The story of the inventive teen whose electronics hobby made him a terror suspect gained worldwide attention when it arose in September 2015.
It was seen by some as evidence of widespread anti-Muslim sentiment among American police.
But others flocked to support him.
“Cool clock, Ahmed,” then president Obama tweeted at the time. “Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science.”
The young man’s family accepted Obama’s offer, and the following month Ahmed visited the presidential residence during a day devoted to the sciences.
The young inventor — quickly dubbed the “clock boy” on social media — received an avalanche of supportive messages in America and abroad.
Silicon Valley’s leading institutions sent sympathetic messages; he received offers to intern at Twitter and to visit the offices of Google and Facebook.
But his family announced not long afterward that they would be moving to Qatar.

An illustration picture shows the log-on screen for the Facebook website on an Ipad, in Bordeaux, Southwestern France on January 30, 2013. (Photo by Reuters)
The European Union’s competition regulator has imposed a massive fine of 110 million euros ($122 million) on social media network Facebook over misleading information on the purchase of messaging service WhatsApp and the ensuing merger process.
The European Commission said Thursday that Facebook misled the monitoring body in 2014 by pretending that it had not been able to "establish reliable automated matching" between user accounts of Facebook and WhatsApp after it bought the popular online messenger.
The commission said the information was incorrect as WhatsApp in 2014 offered updates, which showed that linking user phone numbers with Facebook user IDs was possible.
“However, in August 2016, WhatsApp announced updates to its terms of service and privacy policy, including the possibility of linking WhatsApp users' phone numbers with Facebook users' identities,” said the commission.
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Facebook had affected the competition by cheating on the merger and that the fine could serve as a deterrent.
"Today's decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information,” Vestager said in a statement, adding that “the Commission must be able to take decisions about mergers' effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts.”
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager addresses a press conference at European Commission in Brussels on April 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The fine is the biggest penalty for merger breach ever imposed by the EU, which had cleared the USD 19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp in late 2014. The commission said the new ruling and the fine would have no impact on its October 2014 clearance of the deal. Other officials said cooperation by Facebook reduced the amount of the fine.
Facebook issued a statement, saying that it was a mistake not to inform the EU about the technical issues of the merger. The company said it was happy that the case reached an end with the imposition of the fine.
“The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional and the Commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review. Today's announcement brings this matter to a close,” Facebook said.

Rotimi Akinyele, the Convener of the conference said the event was a way of proffering solutions to cyber security issues. To that effect, he added that the conference will be a yearly event.
With the growing cyber threats, experts in the field have called for collaboration in intelligence sharing, especially among players in the financial services sector as panacea to tackle the challenge.
The experts made the suggestion at the 2017 Cyber security Conference dubbed, NaijaSecCon, held in Lagos.
On intensifying awareness, Rotimi Akinyele, the Convener of the conference said the event was a way of proffering solutions to cyber security issues. To that effect, he added that the conference will be a yearly event.
“Everything we are doing has to do with awareness. People invest in cyber solution, buy fireware worth millions, but in the end people need to be aware because there are some basic things which people are not aware. We are starting with awareness, this is going to be a gradual things, it is not just going to be a one-off.
“Yearly we will be organising this conference and it is going to be bigger. The interesting thing about the programme is that people are willing support. They hold views that what we are doing will change the future of cyber security in Nigeria. The mentality about cyber security is that if there is no strong attack, people will not get serious. We have had regulatory bodies which made it compulsory for financial institutions abide by certain cyber security standards and regulatory framework. As long as the motive is right, the support will be heavily required,” he pointed.
A senior cyber security expert, Chinedu Onwukike, disclosed that the activities of cybercriminals are on the increase despite the existence of several agencies set up to tackle the ugly trend, which he attributed to the dearth of forensic test by the agencies.
“A lot of agencies have been created to tackle cybercrime but nothing serious has been done. There are no forensic tests been carried out, people get away with fraud.
“There have to be collaboration in intelligence sharing by financial institutions to tackle cyber-crimes; this is the practice in advance societies. We have monthly meeting where they threat sharing since they are working in the same ecosystem,” he explained.
Similarly, Senior Cyber Security Specialist, Debra Okwuzi, emphasised that before embarking on global partnerships, it is imperative to create awareness locally about the fight against the menace.
“There is internal cyber security issues which we need to solve, for instance terrorism. Before talking about the global body, we need to talk about what happens internally. There has to be a lot of synergy on how to address cyber-crimes. Cyber-crime is growing exponentially, and the issue has been in the media and this has attracted government attention to pass into a cyber-crime bill.”
As part of the event of the conference, hacking competition tagged, ‘2017 Naija SecCon Ethical Hacking Competition, was also organised to help discover new talents and innovations. Cyber security professional, Olofinlade Victor, leader of the HackerFringer team emerged winner of the contest.

This poses a risk to Nigeria’s cyber space, which is predominantly characterised by a huge volume of fake, counterfeited and unlicensed software as well as illegal downloads.
Minister advocates building of resilient defence against cyber crime
Although the WannaCry ransomware that has been wreaking havoc has been stopped, there are indications that those who initiated the attack at the weekend could go on to alter the code and restart it all over again.
The list of African countries affected by the WannaCry ransomware includes, but is not limited to, South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria and many more.
This poses a risk to Nigeria’s cyber space, which is predominantly characterised by a huge volume of fake, counterfeited and unlicensed software as well as illegal downloads.
Although the 2016 data of unlicensed software usage in Nigeria has not been released by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), however, it claimed that as at 2015, 80 per cent of software used in the country are unlicensed. It put the value at $232 million.
Besides, The Guardian learnt through industry sources that there has been a major increase of about 55 per cent sales and purchase of various inferior anti-virus software in the last six months in Nigeria.
In addition, the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has also alerted Nigerians to the attack, warning especially Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) and other stakeholders to be wary.
NITDA’s Director-General, Dr. Isa Ali Pantanmi, in a statement explained that WannaCrypt spreads by itself between computers and does not require human interaction, stressing that it restricts access to the affected system as well as demanding for the payment of ransom.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) urged Nigerians to obtain software patch released by Microsoft in March 2017 to fix the Ransomware Virus; plan scheduled penetration tests on the networks and systems to ensure protection and availability at all times.
NCC urged subscribers who use their smartphones as substitutes to computers for Internet access to protect themselves and their devices by not opening e-mail attachments/links from unknown sources; not clicking pop-ups and applets on unknown websites and installing effective antivirus software for their mobile devices.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Communication Technology, Adebayo Shittu has stressed the need for the country to build a resilient cyber defence to check cyber crime.
Speaking at the cyber security summit organised by the Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria yesterday in Abuja, the minister noted that Nigeria loses over N127 billion to cyber crime, adding that the financial implication could be more as large number of incidents remain undetected or unreported.
He urged the participants to come up with strategies that will build better and safer cyber space for all.

The CNIL agency said it had slapped a penalty of 150,000 euros ($160,000) on Facebook Inc and Facebook Ireland, for “several breaches of the French Data Protection Act”, the maximum fine in such cases. AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS
France’s data protection agency said Tuesday it had fined Facebook for collecting information on users without their knowledge, following a probe of the social network in cooperation with other European regulators.
The CNIL agency said it had slapped a penalty of 150,000 euros ($160,000) on Facebook Inc and Facebook Ireland, for “several breaches of the French Data Protection Act”, the maximum fine in such cases.
Following a two-year investigation, CNIL said Facebook had built up “a massive compilation of personal data of internet users in order to display targeted advertising”.
The American internet giant had also “collected data on browsing activity of internet users on third-party websites, via the ‘datr’ cookie, without their knowledge”, the agency said. This was “unfair tracking”, it said.
The French action is part of a Europe-wide approach, CNIL said, with Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and the German city state of Hamburg also investigating and working with France.
Facebook had been put on notice twice to comply with French law, but provided “unsatisfactory responses”, CNIL said.
Facebook has some 33 million users in France.
Facebook said in a statement to AFP that it “respectfully” disagreed with the ruling and that it complied with European data protection laws.
The company now has four months to file an appeal with the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative court. It did not say whether it will.
Last year the CNIL slapped a 100,000-euro fine on Google, another US internet giant, for failing to delist user information from all of its search engine extensions at the request of users.
Google appealed and the case is ongoing.

A photo taken on May 15, 2017 shows staff monitoring the spread of ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA) in Seoul, South Korea. (AFP photo)
The European Union's police agency, Europol, says it still needs to be proven that there was a link between North Korea and a recent cyberattack that locked computers in more than 150 countries.
“We are open to investigate in all directions, but we don't speculate and we cannot confirm this. It's still too early to say anything,” Europol spokesman Jan Op Gen Oorth said on Tuesday, adding, "We are working on it. The investigation is ongoing ... It could come from everywhere, it could come from any country."
Experts said earlier in the day that they had detected signs of a possible North Korean link to "WannaCry", a malware which spread through computers in key European countries and demanded to receive cash from users to release their sensitive files and information.
Computer code posted by Google researcher Neel Mehta showed that there were similarities between the attack last week and a vast hacking effort widely attributed to Pyongyang.
Rob Bertholee, the cyber spy chief in the Netherlands, where the Europol is based, said North Korea could be a major culprit, adding that Pyongyang had always been among certain countries to order such acts of sabotage.
"I think we might have a very capable adversary in North Korea as well," said Bertholee.
Europol elaborated on its past findings about how much hackers had managed to extort money from the victims of the cyberattack, saying some 243 payments of a total of about 63,000 dollars had been made since the start of the attack on May 12. The agency said the number of affected IP addresses around the world on Tuesday was 163,745, meaning that the pace of the attack was slowing.

A window announcing the encryption of data, including a requirement to pay, appears on an electronic timetable display at the railway station in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, May 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Governments and businesses worldwide have been jittery over the weekend as they brace to start the new work week under the threat of a recent global cyber attack.
In the Far East, Chinese state media on Monday quoted national cyberspace authorities as saying the global ransomware computer virus was still spreading in the country.
“Hundreds of thousands” of Chinese computers at nearly 30,000 institutions, including government agencies, have been hit by the malware, a leading Chinese security-software provider has said.
Japan’s Nissan Motor Company confirmed on Monday that some of its units had been targeted, and the Japan Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center said 2,000 computers at 600 companies had been affected by the ransomware.
The indiscriminate ransomware attack began on Friday and struck banks, hospitals, and government agencies, exploiting known vulnerabilities in older Microsoft computer operating systems.
The attack, known as “WannaCry,” paralyzed computers that run Britain’s hospital network, Germany’s national railway, and other companies and government agencies worldwide.
Experts say the attack may be the largest online extortion scheme ever launched.
The software used in the attack has been traced to the US National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA claims the software used in the attacks has been stolen from it.
The NSA’s spying and foreign cyber activities were revealed in June 2013 by former US intelligence contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden. He leaked the classified information and then left the United States.
How the extortion scheme works
When the ransomware virus infects a computer system, data on that system get encrypted, and images appear on monitors demanding a payment of $300 in the almost untraceable virtual currency Bitcoin.
The payment must be made within three days, otherwise the price would be doubled; and if none is received within seven days, the locked files will be deleted, according to the screen messages.
Authorities have told victims not to pay the ransom money. However, media reported about $38,000 had been paid by Monday morning.
More than 200,000 computers in 150 countries have been affected.
‘Update your systems’
Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith said on Sunday that the places affected by the virus had failed to keep their systems up to date, allowing it to spread.
“As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems,” Smith said.
The company said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the virus involved in the latest attack, but many users had not run it.
Smith called the attack a “wake-up call” and blamed the government for the secret “stockpiling of vulnerabilities.”
“We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world,” he said, referring to a website that leaks purported government data.

A window announcing the encryption of data including a requirement to pay appears on an electronic timetable display at the railway station in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, May 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The cyberattack that spread malicious software around the world, shutting down networks at hospitals, banks and government agencies, was thwarted by a young British researcher and an inexpensive domain registration, with help from another 20-something security engineer in the US.
Britain's National Cyber Security Center and others were hailing the cybersecurity researcher, a 22-year-old identified online only as MalwareTech, who — unintentionally at first — discovered a so-called "kill switch" that halted the unprecedented outbreak.
By then the "ransomware" attack had crippled Britain's hospital network and computer systems in several countries in an effort to extort money from computer users. But the researcher's actions may have saved companies and governments millions of dollars and slowed the outbreak before computers in the US were more widely affected.
MalwareTech, who works for cybersecurity firm Kryptos Logic, is part of a large global cybersecurity community who are constantly watching for attacks and working together to stop or prevent them, often sharing information via Twitter. It's not uncommon for them to use aliases, either to protect themselves from retaliatory attacks or for privacy.
In a blog post Saturday, MalwareTech explained he learned on Friday that networks across Britain's health system had been hit by ransomware, tipping him off that "this was something big."
He began analyzing a sample of the malicious software and noticed its code included a hidden web address that wasn't registered. He said he "promptly" registered the domain, something he regularly does to try to discover ways to track or stop malicious software.
Across an ocean, Darien Huss, a 28-year-old research engineer for the cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, was doing his own analysis. The western Michigan resident said he noticed the authors of the malware had left in a feature known as a kill switch. Huss took a screen shot of his discovery and shared it on Twitter.
Soon he and MalwareTech were communicating about what they'd found: That registering the domain name and redirecting the attacks to the server of Kryptos Logic had activated the kill switch, halting the ransomware's infections.
A computer running a Windows Server is seen connected into a network server in an office building in Washington, DC on May 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Huss and others were calling MalwareTech a hero on Saturday, with Huss adding that the global cybersecurity community was working "as a team" to stop the infections from spreading.
"I think the security industry as a whole should be considered heroes," he said.
But he also said he's concerned the authors of the malware could re-release it without a kill switch or with a better one, or that copycats could mimic the attack.
"I think it is concerning that we could definitely see a similar attack occur, maybe in the next 24 to 48 hours or maybe in the next week or two," Huss said. "It could be very possible."
Who perpetrated this wave of attacks remains unknown. This is already believed to be the biggest online extortion attack ever recorded, disrupting services in nations as diverse as the US, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Spain and India.
Europol, Europe's policing agency, called the attack unprecedented and said computers in more than 150 countries have been affected. Two security firms — Kaspersky Lab and Avast —said Russia was hit hardest.
These hackers "have caused enormous amounts of disruption— probably the biggest ransomware cyberattack in history," said Graham Cluley, a veteran of the anti-virus industry in Oxford, England.
In Russia, government agencies insisted that all attacks had been resolved. Russian Interior Ministry, which runs the national police, said the problem had been "localized" with no information compromised. Russia's health ministry said its attacks were "effectively repelled."
The ransomware exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was purportedly identified by the US National Security Agency for its own intelligence-gathering purposes. Hackers said they stole the tools from the NSA and dumped them on the internet.

Turkish anti-riot police stand guard on December 9, 2016 outside a courthouse in Istanbul. (Photo by AFP)
A Turkish court has rejected an appeal by the Wikimedia Foundation against a ruling delivered last week to block all access inside Turkey to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.
According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, the first magistrates court in Ankara on Friday dismissed the appeal filed by the foundation, which runs Wikipedia, among other sites.
On May 1, a court in Ankara backed the April 29 ban imposed by Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK).
The block was reportedly imposed following Wikipedia's failure to respond to repeated requests by Turkey to remove content accusing Ankara of cooperation with several terrorist groups.
The head of Turkey's communications agency, Omer Fatih Sayan, said on Wednesday that the ban would continue to be enforced until the online encyclopedia followed court rulings ordering it to remove the anti-government content that Ankara deemed to be false.
Istanbul's municipality officials also canceled on May 2 an invitation sent to Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, to attend the World Cities Expo, a major international conference to be held in the city on May 15-18.
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, poses for a portrait in Mexico City, July 16, 2015. (Photo by AP)
Wales had reacted to the ban on April 29, saying, "Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people, I will always stand with you to fight for this right."
The block angered freedom of information activists who accuse Ankara of slapping bans on websites and social media with alarming regularity.
Over the past years, Turkey has become notorious for provisionally blocking access to popular sites, including Facebook and Twitter, in the wake of major events such as mass protests or militant attacks.
Ankara has also been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups, who were believed to have played a role in a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, when a faction of the Turkish military declared that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge of the country.
Over 40,000 people have been arrested and 120,000 others sacked or suspended from a wide range of professions, including soldiers, police, teachers, and public servants, in the wake of the coup attempt.

A blackout landing page is displayed on a laptop computer screen inside the "Anti-Sopa War Room" at the offices of the Wikipedia Foundation in San Francisco, the US, January 18, 2012. (Photo by AP)

A Turkish official says a ban on Wikipedia will continue to be enforced until the online encyclopedia follows court rulings ordering it to remove anti-government content Ankara deems to be false.
"It's impossible for access to Wikipedia to be allowed until judiciary decisions are followed," the website of the Hurriyet daily quoted the head of Turkey's communications agency, Omer Fatih Sayan, as saying on Wednesday.
Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) blocked all access inside the country to on April 29 as “an administrative measure.” On May 1, a court in Ankara backed the ban with a formal order.
Local media said the access to Wikipedia was blocked after the site failed to remove two English-language pages that linked the Turkish government to the activities of terrorist groups and were deemed by Ankara to be false.
Internet users were still not able to access the site on Wednesday.
State media said the block was imposed as Wikipedia failed to respond to repeated requests by Turkey to remove content it believed were promoting terror and accusing Ankara of cooperation with several terrorist groups.
According to Hurriyet, the Wikimedia Foundation appealed the decision by the Ankara court.

This file photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows Jimmy Wales, the founder of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, at a Viva Technology event in Paris, France. (Photo by AFP)

On Tuesday, Istanbul's municipality officials canceled an invitation sent to Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, to attend the World Cities Expo, a major international conference to be held in the city on May 15-18.
"Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people, I will always stand with you to fight for this right," Wales wrote in a message posted on Twitter on April 29 in reaction to the ban.
Over the past years, Turkey has become notorious for provisionally blocking access to popular sites, including Facebook and Twitter, in the wake of major events such as mass protests or militant attacks.
Ankara has also been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups, who were believed to have played a role in a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, when a faction of the Turkish military declared that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge of the country.
Over 40,000 people have been arrested and 120,000 others sacked or suspended from a wide range of professions, including soldiers, police, teachers, and public servants, over alleged links with terrorist groups.

UK spy agencies should be able to access encrypted content in online messaging applications to prevent terrorist attacks, says British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, warning that terrorists are hiding behind some of the most popular apps.
According to reports, Khalid Masood, the man behind the recent terror attack in London, had communicated with unknown parties through WhatsApp messenger two minutes before his assault that killed 4 people and wounded 50 others.
In an interview with BBC on Sunday, Rudd said it was “completely unacceptable” that terrorists have found a “place to hide” using these applications.
“It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide,” she said.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd (Photo by AFP)
“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” the secretary added.
Rudd said tech companies in charge of applications like the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which use end-to-end encryption, have a “responsibility” to hand over user messages upon government’s request.
“We have to have a situation where we can have our security services get into the terrorists’ communications. That’s absolutely the case,” she argued.
“These people have families, have children as well – they should be on our side,” Rudd further said of app developers, calling on Facebook, Google and Telegram owners to step up cooperation.
Echoing Rudd’s comments was Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who said in a Sunday Times article that internet companies should come up with software that detect and remove extreme material.
Corbyn warns against ‘unaccountable’ access
In reaction to the remarks by Rudd and Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised concern over giving too much access to spying agencies.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn walks along Westminster Bridge by the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 23, 2017 after the bridge reopened following the March 22 terror attack. (Photo by AFP)
“I’ve been concerned about giving too much unaccountable power to anybody in our society, so could the security services go to court and make an application? I would have thought they probably could,” said the opposition leader, urging a balance between the “right to know” and “the right to privacy.”
Lib Dems did not like the idea either,  with home affairs spokesman Brian Paddick saying that the government would play into the hands of terrorists by “implementing draconian laws that limit our civil liberties.”

WikiLeaks reveals the CIA has been targeting the iPhone since 2008.
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks has claimed the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been hacking Apple products to spy on their owners.
The new WikiLeaks release, called Vault 7 “Dark Matter,” was released on Thursday.  It described a handful of programs that the CIA has apparently used for nearly a decade—in some cases to surreptitiously monitor Apple device owners.
It also claimed that another bug called NightSkies 1.2, a "beacon/loader/implant tool," has been specifically made for iPhones. The bug that runs in the background provides the CIA with command and control capabilities.
WikiLeaks said the malware has been installed on factory fresh devices since at least 2008 for surveillance. The website believes it's possible the CIA had redirected iPhone shipments to install the tool.
Julian Assange, founder of the online leaking platform WikiLeaks, is seen on a screen as he addresses journalists via a live video connection during a press conference on the platform's 10th anniversary in Berlin, October 4, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
"While CIA assets are sometimes used to physically infect systems in the custody of a target it is likely that many CIA physical access attacks have infected the targeted organization's supply chain including by interdicting mail orders and other shipments (opening, infecting, and resending) leaving the United States or otherwise," the organization said.
"Currently, NightSkies does not have stealth and persistence capabilities,” it said.
According to the report, the British and the US intelligence services have also been using smart televisions as spies and a covert microphone to collect information.

Electronic devices including iPads included in the ban.
The United Kingdom has followed the United States in banning electronic devices on passenger flights from several Muslim-majority countries, reports say.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a ban on large electronic devices from cabin baggage on flights from nine airlines in eight countries across 10 airports in the Middle East.
The measure came after the department claimed that terrorists are seeking "innovative methods" to bring down passenger planes amid fears that bombs could be hidden in laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD players and electronic games.
The list of countries includes Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt.  
The list of airlines affected by the ban includes Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways.
The airports affected are:
  • Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco
  • Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Cairo International Airport, Egypt
  • Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan
  • King Abdulaziz International, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  • King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait International Airport
  • Hamad International, Doha, Qatar
  • Abu Dhabi International, United Arab Emirates
  • Dubai International, United Arab Emirates
UK issues electronic devices ban for six countries
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a joint press conference with US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
Following the US ban, the British government announced that passengers flying directly to the UK from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey will be banned from large electronic devices into the plane cabin.
The banned devices are laptops, tablets and phones which are larger than a typical smartphone, measuring 16 cementers by 9.3 cementers  by 1.5 cementers.
"The additional security measures may cause some disruption for passengers and flights, and we understand the frustration that will cause, but our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals," a government spokesperson said. 
"Direct flights to the UK from these destinations can continue to operate to the UK subject to these new measures being in place. Travelers are advised to keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice and to check online with their chosen airline for further information," he added. 
The US Department for Homeland Security earlier said the ban was implemented because they were "concerned about terrorists' ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs.”
They said terrorists are "aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks.”
US President Donald Trump has been under fire by Muslim and human rights groups as well as his Democratic rivals and many of his Republican proponents since he started calling for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" during his presidential campaign.
Following his inauguration on January 20, Trump has twice issued executive orders, banning people from several Muslim-majority countries, causing widespread protests in the US and several world cities. American courts have blocked Trump’s travel ban but the president has said that he is still trying to find a way to impose it.


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