Chinese hackers targeted five European foreign ministries in the run-up to the Russia-hosted G20 summit in September, according to security firm FireEye. There is no evidence that it was state-sponsored snooping, though FireEye reckons they were after intelligence related to the then-possible invasion of Syria. This year’s G20 was quite the summit from a security standpoint – Russia subsequently had to deny issuing spyware-laden USB sticks and phone-charging cables to foreign leaders and other delegates.
Many users of the pornographic streaming-video service Redtube have received letters asking them to pay hundreds of euros per viewed clip. The illegality of viewing streams of copyright-infringing material is questionable, as are the methods used to identify the users. Read more »
The company has successfully completed a one-kilometer drone delivery of a packet of medicine from a Bonn pharmacy to its nearby headquarters. However, this was only a test, and DHL has no firm plans for commercial services as yet. Read more »
Are you a terrorist using virtual worlds and gaming networks to hide your communications? There’s no evidence you exist, but if you do, then be warned: according to fresh revelations in the Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica, the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ have for years infiltrated World of Warcraft and the Xbox Live network. Hilariously, so many agents were knocking around Second Life at one point that the NSA identified a need to “deconflict” them, ensuring they weren’t wasting time by spying on one another or duplicating efforts.
Rene Obermann, who will end his seven-year spell as head of Germany’s big telecoms player at the end of the month, said in an interview that he doesn’t understand why everyone is “pussy-footing” around the U.S. on privacy issues. Read more »
The incident, which was probably a case of the French finance ministry going overboard in its efforts to monitor employee activities, provides a timely reminder of how certificates are the weak point in online security. Read more »
Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo and AOL all want the U.S. government to take the lead on reining in suspicionless surveillance. It’s a significant step up in the companies’ demands, and with good reason. Read more »
The electronics firms, along with others, were the targets of unannounced inspections earlier this week. Details are scarce, but the nascent investigation relates to suspected restrictions placed on online sales. Read more »
Former Autonomy boss Mike Lynch has invested in a company called Neurence through his Invoke Capital fund. Based in Cambridge, the firm was itself formed by former employees of Autonomy’s Aurasma augmented-reality (AR) division after HP bought Autonomy. Neurence has a new iPhone AR app called Taggar, which lets users overlay their own photos, videos and stickers on top of real-world objects, for viewing by other users when they hold their phone up in front of the object. Invoke’s previous investment, in September, was a Cambridge security firm called Darktrace.
The Swedish firm’s EyeX developer kit, which will ship in March, comes with the latest tools for creating games and other apps that build on the human gaze as a means of interaction. Read more »
Sweden’s FRA intelligence agency has been spying on Russian politicians on behalf of the United States, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Swedish TV station Sveriges Television reported on Thursday that Sweden was a key regional partner for the U.S. National Security Agency because major telecommunications cables pass through it (suggesting bulk rather than targeted collection). Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell has previously warned of this situation, which dates back to the Cold War but was still apparently in play as recently as April this year. Diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks in 2011 also pointed to the arrangement.
People in China are free to trade in Bitcoin themselves, but their banks are now officially barred from touching the stuff. While not unexpected, the move had an immediate effect on the currency’s value. Read more »
The company will make it easier for governments in Europe, the Americas and Asia to inspect its source code for hidden backdoors. Microsoft will also apply encryption across its systems and, it says, step up legal challenges against gag orders. Read more »
Twitter has inked its first strategic partnership with a carrier that doesn’t involve subsidized data. It will surely be a boost for the microblogging platform in Germany, where it is weak, but the benefits for Deutsche Telekom are less clear. Read more »
The service now has a beta feature that allows users to enter their own criteria for comparing one thing to another, which should make it easier for the Versus team to tell what’s most important to people. Read more »
London-based early-stage venture capital firm Hoxton Ventures officially revealed itself on Wednesday, despite having already made some quiet investments into startups Campanja and (according to TechCrunch) Tizaro. The firm will make 4 to 6 investments a year from its $40 million fund, which will apparently soon close at $50 million. Europe may be experiencing a much-needed boom in early-stage investment — Hoxton Ventures’ rivals include the likes of London’s Balderton Capital, Wellington Partners and MMC Ventures, and Berlin’s Earlybird and Point Nine Capital.
One big advantage of Apple’s Lightning connectors over industry-standard Micro-USB (technically “Micro-B”) connectors is that they can go either way up – you don’t need to look first to see which way to insert it. Perhaps with that in mind, as well as the rise of thinner devices, the USB Implementors Forum said (PDF) on Tuesday that a new Type-C connector will offer the same benefit and more. It will be agnostic not only about orientation but also cable direction, and will be around the same size as today’s Micro-B connectors – prepare to say goodbye to the existing USB plug form factor after the specification is finalised in mid-2014.
The mobile operator’s customers will get to use their domestic voice and data allowances while travelling in the United States, even though Three parent company Hutchison Whampoa doesn’t have a carrier operation there. Read more »
The company has been quietly buying firms to help it build robots that could be used in manufacturing, logistics and quite possibly other sectors, too. Read more »
The new version of the open-source cloud management platform, codenamed “Retina”, introduces the ability to define scheduling policies for storage load-balancing. Read more »
The UN’s special investigator on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism has opened an investigation into Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance by the U.S., the U.K. and their close allies. Ben Emmerson will report back to the UN general assembly in autumn 2014, having looked into: whether Snowden is a whistleblower; whether his leaks weakened American and British counter-terrorism efforts; whether surveillance powers in those countries should be curbed; whether oversight of their spying is adequate; and whether the U.K. Parliament was misled by the country’s intelligence services. The UN itself was a target of NSA surveillance.
The latest example of European web censorship in the name of copyright doesn’t just target internet service providers — it also requires Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to remove links to the offending sites. Read more »
German police are considering the use of a Shazam-like app for identifying neo-Nazi rock music, Der Spiegel reports. The app would identify far-right bands and their songs, apparently sparing police resources and speeding up investigations as they tackle extremist gatherings (and online radio stations, the article suggests). Nazism is illegal in Germany, as is racist hate speech. However, this app is unlikely to enter into use if legal authorities decide it’s a form of acoustic surveillance, which it plainly is.
Facebook may soon buy a Bangalore startup, called Little Eye Labs, that provides performance analysis and optimization tools for Android developers. According to a Monday report in India’s Business Standard, advanced talks are being facilitated by the Indian Software Products Industry Roundtable (iSpirt). This may be connected with Facebook’s quest to better optimize its apps to run on low-end devices and spartan internet connections — like Google, the firm is trying to push further into developing markets. In recent months, Google bought French mobile optimization outfit Flexycore and Facebook picked up data compression specialist Onavo.
The Finnish company, which is largely staffed by ex-Nokians, has finally put its smartphone on sale. The device runs a derivation of the Linux-based MeeGo operating system. Read more »
Prime Minister Tony Abbott still refuses to allow an inquiry into the Australian intelligence services, after it emerged that they were content with sharing surveillance data with the U.S. and U.K. without stripping out data relating to normal Australian citizens. Read more »
Bitcoin may be riding high, but spending it is still hardly an intuitive process. A new device called the nio Card, currently in Kickstarter mode, may provide an answer by allowing contactless Bitcoin payments — and because it has built-in NFC, it will work with the iPhone. Read more »
The European Parliament’s industry committee has approved a draft law that will make the sharing of infrastructure such a sewage and gas pipes and drainage systems a lot easier — thereby making broadband rollouts a lot cheaper. Read more »
The Geeksphone Revolution promises an intriguingly versatile device, but it’s not all good news — Geeksphone has had to inform those who pre-ordered its current theoretical flagship, the Peak+, that the device has been cancelled due to supply chain problems. Read more »
A team at Georgia Tech has come up with an ingenious way to steer a wheelchair if you can’t move your limbs and torso: your tongue, featuring a magnetic titanium piercing full of sensors. Currently, the most common driving method for people with tetraplegia involves sucking on or blowing into a straw, but the researchers’ method — which basically turns the tongue into a joystick by having the sensors talk to a headset that controls the chair — is apparently just as accurate and much faster. Associate professor Maysam Ghovanloo hopes to commercialize the technology through his startup, Bionic Sciences.
A government minister has confirmed plans, mentioned recently by the prime minister in a poorly reported parliamentary exchange, to force ISPs to censor access to “extremist” online material. But that term is open to interpretation. Read more »
Today’s secure email technology is too clunky for really widespread deployment. Now the creators of Lavabit and Silent Mail — including encryption legend Phil Zimmermann — have funding to help realize their dream of a usable yet genuinely secure email system. Read more »
European courts can order ISPs to block sites that offer copyright-infringing material, in the opinion of the EU advocate general. Of course, some EU countries already allow this. Read more »
The European Commission has set out its plan for restoring “trust” in the way the U.S. treats Europeans’ data. However, while it calls for more respect for EU ciitizens’ rights, the plan mostly amounts to asking the Americans to stick to the rules they’ve agreed to, and to be clearer about when surveillance may take place. Read more »
Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show how the NSA has at least considered using evidence of alleged Islamist extremists’ online sexual activities to discredit them. The targets were not suspected of involvement in terrorist plots. Read more »
The New York Times has published further details of an NSA operation that involves spying on the fiberoptic cables running between the data centers of companies such as Google and Yahoo. The piece highlights the role played by Level 3, the company that runs such cables for Google and Yahoo. Level 3 has already been identified as one of the telecommunications firms working with the UK’s NSA partner, GCHQ. These fiber connections are crucial to the affair, as they may provide a way for the NSA and GCHQ to effectively tap into major web firms’ systems without their cooperation.
There’s a battle of the bike locks going on — melding physical security with smartphone smarts and sharing-economy potential, Lock8 and Bitlock offer different takes on the same idea. And Lock8 just got an extra boost through funding from Horizon Ventures and Otto Capital. Read more »
Newegg’s use of industry-standard online encryption techniques infringed on an obscure modem patent, a Texas jury found. However, the e-commerce outfit has promised to appeal, which has worked out well for it in the past. Read more »