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  1. In 2019, the High Court of England and Wales ruled that by offering an index of non UK-based or unlicensed radio stations to UK residents, radio aggregator service TuneIn breached copyright. In response the service has now geo-blocked thousands of stations leaving UK customers without their favorite sounds. Unless they use a VPN, then it's business as usual. TuneIn is one of the most prominent providers of radio content in the world. Available for free or on a premium basis, its site and associated app provide access to more than 100,000 stations and podcasts. Unless you happen to live in the UK, which is now dramatically underserved by the company. Sued by Labels in the UK For Mass Copyright Infringement In 2017, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group sued the US-based radio index in the High Court of England and Wales, alleging that the provision of links to stations unlicensed in the UK represented a breach of copyright. One of the most interesting aspects of the case is that TuneIn is marketed as an “audio guide service”, which means that it indexes stations that are already freely available on the web and curates them so that listeners can more easily find them. When stations are more easily found, more people listen to them, which means that TuneIn arguably boosts the market overall. Nevertheless, the labels claimed this was illegal and detrimental to the music industry in the UK on licensing grounds. Decision by the High Court Handed Down in 2019 In November 2019, the High Court sided with the labels, ruling that unlike Google – which TuneIn had attempted to compare itself to – TuneIn did “much more than that”, in part due to its curation and search features in respect of those stations. “I find therefore that the activity of TuneIn does amount to an act of communication of the relevant works; and also that that act of communication is to a ‘public’, in the sense of being to an indeterminate and fairly large number of persons,” Judge Birss wrote in his decision. When TuneIn supplied UK users with links to radio stations that were not licensed for the UK or were not licensed at all, the Judge said the company infringed the labels’ rights. On the other hand, he also determined that when TuneIn supplied UK users with links to radio stations that are already licensed in the UK, the company did not infringe Sony or Warner’s copyrights. TuneIn sought to paint this latter point as a victory but that still meant that it had breached copyright on a large scale as the majority of stations indexed by TuneIn and supplied to the UK market did not fit into this scenario. Appeal and Subsequent Geo-Blocking of the UK In December 2019 it was revealed that the High Court had granted permission for both sides to appeal. Pending an outcome in that matter, TuneIn’s service in the UK apparently remained unchanged but during the past few days, users of the service reported a major shift in the type and amount of content being provided to UK users. In response to the apparent decimation of its offering, TuneIn took to Twitter to address the complaints. “Due to a court ruling in the United Kingdom, we will be restricting international stations to prohibit their availability in the UK, with limited exceptions. We apologize for the inconvenience,” the company wrote. TorrentFreak contacted TuneIn to ask why this action had been taken now and to receive an indication of precisely how many channels had been blocked and their nature. However, at the time of publishing the company had failed to offer a response, leaving customers – some of whom pay for a premium service – to simply guess where their favorite stations had gone and when (or even if) they would ever return. With TuneIn staying completely silent on the important details, it’s impossible to know whether the company will obtain appropriate licensing to reinstate the lost channels in the future. In the meantime, listeners now have access to a fraction of the channels previously available on the TuneIn site and app. Geo-Blocking Measures Easily Circumvented As pointed out by a reader last evening, in common with many services that restrict output in various regions, TuneIn’s blocking efforts are not comprehensive and can be easily circumvented by listeners in the UK. It transpires that with the use of a decent VPN, one that’s able to switch the user’s virtual location out of the UK and to some other country, the blocked channels/stations are restored to their former glory and accessible in exactly the same way as before. The precise blocking method being used by TuneIn isn’t clear but it’s nowhere as stringent as that deployed by Netflix, for example. An aspect of TuneIn’s blocking that shouldn’t be overlooked is a ‘feature’ of the service itself. TuneIn is a catalog of streams that are already freely available on the Internet. This means that TuneIn acts only as a middleman, indexing stations and making them searchable. While this function is extremely convenient for users, those locked out by TuneIn may only have to do a little research to regain access to their favorite stations. A Little Manual Work Since the company appears to be keeping quiet on the precise details for the moment, it’s hard to conclude whether TuneIn went through its entire station list with a fine toothcomb so that only unlicensed channels were blocked, or whether it erred on the side of caution and blocked everything that it couldn’t be sure of. Presuming the latter is the case (licensing can be difficult to determine), it’s likely that there will be some element of over-blocking and that some channels that shouldn’t have been blocked will now be inaccessible in the UK via TuneIn. This is a particular irritant to listeners of stations that carry no content owned by the labels that brought the lawsuit. In these cases, interested users can bypass TuneIn altogether by visiting the website associated with the station they were listening to, which tend to have their own embedded audio players. However, if visiting multiple sites is inconvenient, some stations publish a URL that can be opened in software such as VLC or other radio apps such as XiaaLive, which also has its own searchable station catalog. Some radio station homepages do not clearly publish their stream URLs but by right-clicking the related audio player in Chrome, for example, it’s possible to view the page’s source code which usually contains the URL of the stream when searching for the term ‘http’ or ‘https’. Experienced users will spot the correct URL quickly but for the less tech-savvy, trial and error or dedicated tools will help. Once a list of URLs is obtained, these can be saved in a VLC playlist, for example, completely negating the need for the TuneIn software. Blocking the Messenger Not the Message While TuneIn may have been largely knee-capped in the UK in terms of international stations, the High Court action has done absolutely nothing to prevent the blocked radio stations from transmitting on the Internet. None of them have anything to do with TuneIn itself as they are operated by third-parties. What the action has achieved, therefore, is to selectively tear up TuneIn’s UK ‘phonebook’. What it hasn’t done is tear up every phonebook available, nor has it taken down a single station indexed by TuneIn, which remain fully operational via their own websites and URLs. It’s a little harder to find them now but hardly a massive undertaking. Update: Comment received from TuneIn “TuneIn is the best platform for broadcasters, and we continue to work with both the broadcast community and users to deliver a world-class listening experience. TuneIn is under judicial order to cease communicating to the public in the UK any sound recordings owned or controlled by Sony and Warner. “Over the past several months, we have worked with broadcasters to confirm their licensing status, removing from our platform those radio stations whose licensing status we are unable to verify at this time. However, stations licensed in the UK can still be made available through the TuneIn service to TuneIn’s UK users.” Source: TorrentFreak
  2. Following the arrest of a 24-year-old man in the UK late June, police used his pirate IPTV service to display a warning message to subscribers. To further press home the message that viewing pirate streams is illegal, police are now serving thousands of GE Hosting's subscribers with cease-and-desist notices, referencing theoretical prosecutions under the Fraud Act. Late June, officers from Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary’s Cyber and Serious Organised Crime Unit arrested a 24-year-old man in the UK under suspicion of operating a pirate IPTV service. First of Its Kind Warning Message The unique aspect of this operation was that the targeted service, GE Hosting (GE, Global Entertainment), was not only taken down but was replaced by a warning notice that was displayed on subscribers’ TV screens. “This illegal stream has been seized By Norfolk and Sussex Police,” it began. “Watching illegal broadcasts is a crime. Your IP address has been recorded. You are instructed to cease and desist immediately from all illegal media streaming.” At the time, police did not mention that GE was the target but multiple sources informed TorrentFreak that it had indeed been taken down by the authorities. Now, however, customers of that service are being personally informed that their illegal subscriptions to GE Hosting have been noted by the police. Police Send GE Subscribers Cease-and-Desist Notices “This letter is intended as notification that Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary Cyber, Intelligence and Serious Organised Crime Directorate are aware of your households use of an illegal TV streaming service, namely through a provider known as ‘GE Hosting’,” the letter reads. “By providing this illegal service, the operators of GE Hosting have committed criminal offenses contrary to the Serious Crime Act, the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, these are serious offenses which carry a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.” “Persons whom subscribe to services like the service provided by GE Hosting also commit a criminal offense contrary to s.11 of the Fraud Act which carries a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment, and/or a fine, and consequently results in a criminal record.” “We are aware that you/members of your household have been subscribing to this illegal service.” It isn’t yet clear whether the letter, which is reportedly being sent to thousands of subscribers, was delivered electronically or by physical mail. IPTV subscribers do not have to provide an accurate billing address but most people do hand over an active email address. In any event, the letter notes that it is not a notification of police action or the beginning of an investigation or criminal prosecution. However, it does make it clear that the letter should be considered a formal cease-and-desist notice which dictates that the subscriber stops illegally streaming using the GE Hosting service. Our understanding is that GE Hosting has already been shut down, a fact that was clarified as correct by Suffolk Police following our email inquiry this morning. As a technicality, therefore, a cease-and-desist notice isn’t needed as the service no longer exists. However, that obviously isn’t the point here. Sending a Powerful Message Using the Fraud Act Nationwide news of thousands of people receiving notices will send a strong message that IPTV subscribers’ personal details are just a step away from the police. More importantly, perhaps, the document clearly states that the authorities aren’t looking at copyright offenses, but those covered under the much more serious Fraud Act. “Section 11 makes it an offense for any person, by any dishonest act, to obtain services for which payment is required, with intent to avoid payment. The person must know that the services are made available on the basis that they are chargeable, or that they might be,” the relevant legislation reads. Section 11 also provides a clear-cut example, since it covers the situation “where a person attaches a decoder to her television to enable viewing access to cable / satellite television channels for which she has no intention of paying.” Offenses under the section can be varied, from obtaining online services without paying for them, to people using false credit card details to access the same. However, another offense punishable under the Act (perhaps an interesting one given the Premier League’s interest in these cases) is the situation “where a person climbs over a wall and watches a football match without paying the entrance fee.” While copyright charges would be available to the police, ‘fraud’ is a heavyweight term among the public. People tend to understand what fraud means and few would enjoy the worry of a fraud conviction hanging over them as it could be a life-changer, particularly career-wise. Comply With the Warning – Or Else GE Hosting is confirmed as closed, which makes it impossible for a letter recipient to breach the cease-and-desist order since it relates only to GE. However, police say that “subscribers shall be monitored” adding that police reserve the right to proceed to investigation and prosecution. “If this type of unlawful activity continues then you will receive no further warnings before criminal enforcement is taken. This letter should therefore not be read as precluding enforcement if you fail to heed this cease and desist letter. The fact that this letter was sent to you could also be cited in future criminal proceedings.” TorrentFreak asked Suffolk Police how this monitoring will be carried out but we are yet to receive a response. However, the fact that people have received a letter at all is quite remarkable. As far as we’re aware and following the on-screen warning, this is another world first for Norfolk & Suffolk Constabulary, not to mention an intriguing escalation of the deterrent message in the UK. A copy of the cease-and-desist, supplied by FACT, can be found here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  3. The latest IP Crime and Enforcement Report, published by the UK Government, signals a wide variety of ongoing and emerging piracy threats. Pirate IPTV services remain a growing problem that could become worse with the rollout of 5G, it reads. There are also concerns about the use of cryptocurrencies and the growth of stream-rippers. Last week the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office published its annual IP Crime and Enforcement Report. The report provides an overview of the latest anti-piracy achievements of copyright holders and also signals emerging threats. Like every year, the general consensus is that piracy and counterfeiting remain a problem. However, specifics and priorities change over time. When the first report was published fifteen years ago P2P file-sharing was the top concern. Today, this is a relatively small part of the piracy landscape. The 120-page report covers a wide range of “IP crimes” but we will zoom in on some of the top piracy threats and responses as reported by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), and PRS for Music. The Growing IPTV Piracy Problem To begin, FACT highlights that the number of IPTV piracy complaints increased sharply over the past few years. In 2014 there were just three complaints but by last year this number had grown to 682. “Over the past 6 years, FACT has seen a steady year-on-year increase in public complaints regarding suppliers of illegal IPTV services,” the group notes, showing that its intel on these IPTV services has grown as well. As a result of this development, FACT’s enforcement efforts are prioritized on IPTV piracy. This has resulted in various successes including “Operation Saturn” where several people associated with IPTV services stopped their activities after a visit from FACT investigators. PIPCU, the dedicated IP-crime department of the City of London Police, also mentioned IPTV as a growing threat. According to the police, this problem may worsen when 5G is rolled out across the UK. “IPTV services are likely to increase, a reason for this is that 5G is being rolled out across the country allowing broadband to increase in availability,” the police unit forecasts in the report. Police Keep an eye on Cryptocurrencies The use of cryptocurrencies by pirate sites and services is far from new. The Pirate Bay, for example, started accepting Bitcoin donations many years ago and various pirate services have a cryptocurrency payment option. In the most recent IP Crime and Enforcement Report, cryptocurrencies receive several noteworthy mentions nonetheless. The report highlights these financial mechanisms as part of sophisticated business models that are used by copyright infringers. According to PIPCU, the police are keeping a close eye on these crypto transactions, which they signal as a threat that will get worse over time. “Payment using cryptocurrencies has now been a feature of PIPCU investigations. It is predicted that payment by cryptocurrency will be an increasing threat due to the level of anonymity cryptocurrency provides,” the report reads. PRS also mentions cryptocurrencies as a problem. The music group notes that the majority of the stream-ripping sites, which include YouTube rippers, rely on advertising as the prime source of revenue but cryptocurrencies are up and coming. “Donations by cryptocurrency have been observed for the first time as a revenue source for 3% of stream-ripping services,” PRS reports. Stream-Ripping is the Music Industry’s Main Piracy Threat These same stream-ripping sites remain the music industry’s top anti-piracy priority. They were identified as the top threat years ago but the problem has only increased. According to new data shared by PRS, stream-rippers account for more than 80% of all top music pirate sites. This is a significant increase compared to a few years ago. This dominance is also reflected in the graph below, where other pirate sites follow at a distance. The website y2mate.com is seen as the largest threat of all with the most traffic, according to PRS. Aside from dedicated sites, stream-ripping apps and browser add-ons are also viewed as a major threat. However, on this front, the enforcement efforts of PRS’s Rights Protection Unit have been rather effective. “By using a range of methods, the RPU’s greatest successes have been in tackling stream-ripping plug-ins and stream-ripping download apps where a 100% success rate in both areas was achieved. “Stream-ripping plug-ins were removed from the Google Chrome browser and stream-ripping download apps were removed or the ripping functionality was disabled from the apps available on the Apple App store,” the report adds. All in all, the latest IP Crime and Enforcement Report doesn’t include many surprises. It is mostly a summary of past achievements paired with a broad overview of the current piracy landscape. However, it does clearly show where the current priorities lie, and how these have changed over time. Source: TorrentFreak
  4. The new Premier League season will begin without crowds due to the coronavirus yet 160 games will not be televised in the UK, a gap that pirate IPTV providers will fill using broadcasts from abroad. The Premier League has recently obtained a new ISP blocking injunction but the Football Supporters' Association is begging for the obvious: Don't give fans no other option than to turn to illegal services. While there’s no doubt that humans have been kicking objects around for fun for thousands of years, organized football as we know it today has existed in the UK since the 19th century. Today, however, football faces a threat like never before. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the sport into chaos, with schedules massively disrupted and leagues thrown into turmoil. In an effort to return to some kind of normality the new Premier League season is set to start on September 12. However, with social-distancing restrictions still in place, fans will be banned from stadiums for the foreseeable future. In the 21st century, the logical solution would be to air all Premier League matches on TV or via the Internet for UK fans to enjoy. At it stands, however, 160 of the planned 380 top-tier games will not be shown in the UK, leaving fans frustrated that they’re being left behind. And there are good reasons for that upset. If fans want to watch the limited matches that are available, they’ll have to subscribe to several services – Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime – at a cost of around £100 per month. If they want the rest, there’s no legal option so combined with the price and lack of choice, some fans turn to pirate IPTV providers instead. That’s something the Premier League is working to prevent. Premier League Obtains a New Blocking Order Over the past several years, the Premier League has obtained blocking orders from the High Court, which give it permission to compel ISPs to block pirate streaming services. The last order, which aimed to cover the 2019/2020 season, ran out on July 27, 2020. However, ISP Virgin Media’s portal now reports that new permission has been granted by the High Court via a “sealed order”, which will cover the 2020/2021 season. Virgin will be required to block “Various Target Servers notified to Virgin Media by FAPL or its appointed agent for the duration of the FAPL 2020/2021 competition season.” While yet to publicly report the new order, all other major ISPs will be required to follow suit. We’ve previously covered how these blocking orders work from a technical perspective. Their sole aim is to prevent people from watching matches via illegal providers but the plans for limited legal airings in the UK under pandemic conditions places these efforts into a whole new light. UK Fans Are Being Backed Into a Corner With significantly higher prices, a limited legal offering, and a stadium ban in full effect, UK fans are not only being backed into a corner, on the world stage they’re being treated as second-class supporters of their own sport. All Premier League matches are available to watch live in other countries and at vastly cheaper prices. Citizens of the US, for example, will be able to use NBC channels and streaming services to watch all 380 matches at a vastly reduced price. Other international services showing matches unavailable in the UK include DAZN, Optus Sport, QQ Sports, Sport TV1, and fuboTV, but it is impractical and/or impossible for UK fans to access them all. Legally that is. Pirate IPTV Providers Are The Ultimate One-Stop-Shop By their very description, it’s clear that pirate IPTV providers are illegal. That aside, what they do very effectively is cut through all the red tape. Football fans are not only greeted with the live matches offered by Sky and BT Sport, but also all of the matches offered by NBC and, where necessary, any and/or all of those shown by the other legal providers mentioned above. While price is clearly a huge factor for UK fans, freedom to choose which matches to watch live is a massive draw too. The Premier League knows this, the government knows this, as does the Football Supporters’ Association, which is campaigning for all games to be shown live in the UK. “We all want to get back to games when it’s safe to do so,” said FSA Chief executive Kevin Miles in comments to the BBC this week. “But it’s not in anyone’s interests to have a situation where fans excluded from grounds for reasons of health or Covid-related capacity reductions feel they have no option but to resort to illegal pirate broadcast schemes.” Comments from an IPTV Insider Last evening TorrentFreak spoke with someone with inside knowledge of IPTV providers and he agreed that the new season will be covered in depth by pirate suppliers. “All the games will be available through different providers like the ones you mentioned and many more, and will almost definitely increase the amount of people using illicit options. It’s almost like [the Premier League] are trying to make more people use illicit options,” he said, demanding anonymity. “Illegal IPTV providers will use the legitimate sites to take the streams and redistribute them either via the original source URL or they will simply use HDMI encoders to do so. This is nothing new and in effect the illegitimate providers will continue most likely un-affected in obtaining the content. “We cannot forget however that many people who watch the Premier League illicitly actually have a legit subscription and only use these services to watch the content that they are not able to watch legitimately,” he added. What Next and Will the Premier League Change Its Position? At the moment, the Premier League has declined to comment but it does have a shareholders’ meeting today so it’s at least possible that something positive may come from that. Our IPTV insider is less optimistic, since he believes that any decisions made will be in the interests of the Premier League, not in the interests of fans. A glaring and persistent error, he says. Whatever the outcome, at some point in the future the Premier League and indeed all providers of live sporting content will have to realize that if they are underserving supporters, someone else will come along and exploit that service gap. Blocking and pirate supplier crackdowns have a limited effect so it seems logical that in order to defeat them holistically, the consumer has to be played onside. And that, as always, means putting all content into a convenient package and making that available to fans at a reasonable price. Until then, pirate suppliers have all the oxygen they need to keep taking a piece of the pie, not to mention a not insignificant slice of the revenue. Source: TorrentFreak
  5. Samsung could build UK 5G if Huawei is banned Samsung says it can provide mobile operators with 5G kit (Image credit: focustech) Samsung says it could provide the kit necessary for UK operators to build 5G networks should they be banned from procuring Huawei equipment. The Korean electronics giant has a limited presence in the mobile equipment market but has big ambitions for 5G, hoping to secure 20 per cent of the market by 2020. It has seen strong demand in its native South Korea as well as from US operators who are banned from working with Huawei. Samsung executive vice president Woojune Kim told MPs on the Commons Science and Technology that it could “definitely” supply UK operators and that the firm was focusing its resources on 4G, 5G and 6G rather than legacy technologies like other vendors. Samsung 5G kit In January, the UK confirmed that Huawei could play a role in the rollout of 5G. The new rules effectively preserved the status quo by banning Huawei kit from the core layer of the network but permitting the use of the firm’s radio gear, subject to a 35 per cent cap. However there is growing speculation that this decision could be reversed and operators would be forced to remove Huawei equipment from their infrastructure. Such a move would be highly disruptive. Operators argue it would cause delays to the rollout of 5G, increase costs and lower innovation – ultimately harming consumers and businesses and the UK’s post-coronavirus, post-Brexit economy. In any case, there are doubts over Ericsson and Huawei’s ability to make up the shortfall. Both the US and UK governments have identified Samsung as a way of diversifying the pool of suppliers in the Radio Access Network (RAN) market. Reports have also suggested that Britain is eager for NEC to get involved. NEC is a key supplier of Radio Access Network (RAN) technology for operators in Japan but has a limited presence outside of its homeland. Samsung could build UK 5G if Huawei is banned
  6. GCHQ and Ministry of Defence to roll out national task force of hackers after months of delay A specialist cyber force of hackers who can target hostile states and terror groups is due to be launched later in the spring, after many months of delays and turf wars between the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ. The National Cyber Force – containing an estimated 500 specialists – has been in the works for two years but sources said that after months of wrangling over the details, the specialist unit was close to being formally announced. Britain is keen to be seen as a “cyber power” able to disrupt against enemy states, targeting satellite, mobile and computer networks as well as trying to take down communications networks used by terror groups. The National Cyber Force is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ, and insiders said it would consolidate some existing capabilities as well as develop new ones. However, officials are coy on details, arguing that much of what the UK’s offensive hackers could do should remain classified. Nor is the identity of its leader expected to be publicly disclosed, although previous speculation that it would be a woman is understood to be inaccurate. Experts argue that the lack of clarity makes it difficult to discuss the appropriate limits of cyber warfare in a democracy and what sort of attacks or disruptive measures can be considered legitimate, particularly if there is a strong military dimension to its work. James Sullivan, the head of cyber research at defence thinktank Rusi, said: “There has been limited public debate on the purpose and ethics of offensive cyber, the circumstances under which it might be used, and the kinds of effects that might and might not be acceptable.” Avowed examples of British hacking are rare. Jeremy Fleming, GCHQ’s director, boasted in 2018 of conducting “a major offensive cyber campaign” against Isis, which he said “had significant success in suppressing [its] propaganda, hindered their ability to coordinate attacks, and protected coalition forces on the battlefield”. The spy chief claimed that during 2017, the terror group had “found it almost impossible to spread their hate online, to use their normal channels to spread their rhetoric, or trust their own publications” in a speech given at Nato in Brussels. Britain’s delayed efforts come on the heels of the US, which has been gradually acknowledging an expanded offensive cyber capability. Last summer, John Bolton, the then US national security adviser, acknowledged that Washington was broadening its operations after Donald Trump relaxed restrictions. The US also rarely acknowledges what its hackers do, although in one operation known as Synthetic Theology, the US Cyber Command jammed servers belonging to the Russian Internet Research Agency, in an apparent attempt to prevent Kremlin interference in the 2018 US mid-term elections. Fresh discussions about Britain’s offensive hacking capability come a day after Boris Johnson unveiled an integrated review of the UK’s foreign and defence policy, aimed at examining spending across all of the country’s UK security agencies over the next five years. But the last National Security review, in 2015, promised to “provide the armed forces with advanced offensive cyber capabilities”, although the final phase of that implementation has dragged on so long that it crossed over into the next review, which is due to complete in the autumn. No 10 has indicated that the review would not necessarily be cost-neutral, meaning that defence spending could increase beyond its existing level of 2% of GDP if an appropriate justification can be found. One of the issues it will address is the future balance of spending between conventional and cyber warfare. Source
  7. Sir Andrew Parker also claims UK spies are not doing bulk surveillance Do you expect me to talk, Parker?' / 'No, Mr Bond, I expect you to decrypt!' British spies are once again stipulating that tech companies break their encryption so life is made easier for state-sponsored eavesdroppers. The head of the domestic spy agency, Sir Andrew Parker, demanded that companies such as Facebook compromise the security of their messaging products so spies could read off the contents of messages at will. Although Sir Andrew linked this need to serious crimes such as terrorism, the principle of a technical backdoor is that once open to spies, it's open to anyone who knows it exists. Calling the world of encrypted messaging apps a "Wild West" that is "inaccessible to authorities", Sir Andrew told ITV in a pre-recorded interview: "Can you provide end-to-end encryption but on an exceptional basis – exceptional basis – where there is a legal warrant and a compelling case to do it, provide access to stop the most serious forms of harm happening?" In the interview, summarised by ITV itself as well as other news outlets, Sir Andrew also claimed that MI5 is not interested in the products of dragnet mass surveillance. He told the broadcaster: "We do not approach our work by population level monitoring – looking for, you know, signs of: 'Out of this 65 million people, who should we, you know, look a bit more closely at?' We do not do that." On a technicality, he may be right: that role is mainly reserved for GCHQ, which does the dirty work of automated spying on the entire population of Britain, as the Snowden revelations confirmed in 2013. Having "collected" everyone's online conversations and trawled through them for snippets of interest, GCHQ passes the highlights to MI5 and overseas UK spy agency MI6. The tension between frictionless reading of criminal suspects' messages and protection of freedoms in the digital era is one where the English-speaking world outside the US has become angrier and angrier with American tech firms, which politely refuse to compromise their products. In Australia this public sector anger boiled over into outright denial of mathematics, with technically illiterate politicians convincing themselves that shouting "Make it so", Star Trek-style, can create a technical means of letting police and spies read your messages whilst shutting out everyone else. Current UK home secretary Priti Patel is firmly anti-encryption, with the social conservative having banged on about paedoterrorists shortly after her appointment last summer. A GCHQ plan to silently add the government as an authorised "third user" to online conversations, whose sole merit was that some actual thought and technical knowhow had been put into it, was dismissed last year by an international coalition of tech companies and big infosec names. The main tension between privacy activists and state security agencies is that the latter prefer the ease of dragnet surveillance over applying for judicial permission to target individuals on a case-by-case basis. Privacy activists say a lack of per-case controls leads to innocents being wrongly caught up in surveillance. MI5 was found by a secretive British spy court in 2018 to have been breaking the law for years. Thanks to the unique way in which MI5 is subject to the law, neither the agency nor any individuals associated with it were held accountable. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal's (IPT) judges were all but falling over themselves to tell MI5 it would be walking free from court. A year later the same court granted MI5 de facto immunity from the law, presumably to apologise for its previous public ruling. Judges drew a line between a newly devised legal "power" to commit crimes in direct defiance of the law and "immunity from prosecution." Apparently one doesn't equal the other, though even the IPT was too embarrassed to explain in its published judgment why that is. Sir Andrew is stepping down in April, along with National Cyber Security Centre founding chief Ciaran Martin, whose service ends at some point this summer. Both their replacements will be appointed by the current government. Sir Andrew Parker's full interview is due to be broadcast on ITV's Tonight programme tomorrow. Source
  8. Councils are sharing information about users of their websites – including when they seek help with a benefit claim, or with a disability or alcoholism – with dozens of private companies. More than 400 local authorities allowed at least one third-party company to track individuals who visit their sites, an investigation has revealed. Some councils were found to be letting companies track use of sensitive sections of their sites, such as when people were seeking financial help or support for substance abuse. Data obtained from cookies tracking where users go online can be sold by data brokers for profit. Critics have argued that council websites serve a public purpose and should not let outside firms monitor their users’ activity, especially given the sensitive nature of some visits. Council user data Wolfie Christl, a technologist and researcher who has been investigating the ad-tech industry, said: “Public sector websites and apps should not use invasive third-party tracking at all.” Johnny Ryan, the chief policy officer at the anonymous web browser Brave, who analysed council websites and shared the findings with the Guardian, said: “Private companies embedded on council websites learn about you. This happens even on the most sensitive occasions, when you might be seeking help from your council.” Brave used open-source tools to see what companies were present on certain webpages. They found 409 council websites in the UK allowed private companies to receive data about their visitors. The investigation has found: Twenty-three councils let data brokers – businesses that collect personal information about consumers and sell that information to other organisations – learn when someone visited their site. On Enfield borough council’s site, a page for people who need financial support for accommodation and food allowed 21 companies, including Google, to see who was visiting. A page on Sheffield city council’s website for people seeking help for substance abuse shared data about visitors with at least 20 companies, including seven data brokers. Ealing’s special educational needs and disability page allowed at least 21 firms to access data about visitors. Almost 7 million people are served by councils that allow one data broker, LiveRamp, to track people on their sites. The company used to be part of Acxiom, a group that sold electoral profiles to Cambridge Analytica. Companies track online activity through cookies, pixels and other trackers. When embedded in a browser, these bits of code can let users be traced around the web. While they don’t identify personal details such as name or address, they identify a user’s viewing habits – such as which page was loaded at a specific time. While many websites including the Guardian use cookies, Ravi Naik, a data lawyer at AWO, suggested that their use on council websites was problematic because of the nature of the details being shared. He said: “We have most of our conversations with the state through local authorities and because of that involve more sensitive and personal information.” It is now prohibited for companies to share data on protected categories without explicit consent. This means before information on health, sexual orientation, race and political opinions is collected, the user must agree to the specific sharing of their “special category” data. Companies say they have consent via people accepting cookies. However, Brave’s report found that while some websites may have stated they used cookies, no users clicked on any buttons to accept or opt out of this process. The law states consent must be informed and based on an explicit affirmative action. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said: “To be valid, consent must be freely given, specific and informed. It must involve some form of unambiguous positive action – for example, ticking a box or clicking a link – and the person must fully understand that they are giving you consent.” Ryan said: “We used an automatic system to load each council’s webpage. All it does is load the site. It is not able to click buttons. All of the tracking revealed in our research happened without consent.” Mark Gannon, the director of business change and information solutions at Sheffield city council, said cookies were used on its website, “and we require the consent of all customers to store or retrieve any data on a computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet”. The report states that when the Sheffield council website was loaded, companies could track someone without clicking on anything. Sheffield council said it used an Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) transparency and consent framework tool provided by the Council Advertising Network. The network said: “No cookies whatsoever are installed for data brokerage purposes – this suggests that data collected from the website is being sold on, and it is not.” Ealing council said it believed its approach was “compliant with the requirements of GDPR”. However, it noted: “This is a complex and ever-evolving area which needs to be kept under review.” Enfield borough council in north London did not provide a comment. LiveRamp said it was no longer a part of Acxiom and it had never “sold UK electoral profile information to Cambridge Analytica”. It said it operated in compliance with jurisdictional laws and worked “diligently to detect and prevent the misuse of data”. A further 198 councils use real-time bidding (RTB) – when a web user loads a page, thousands of potential advertisers bid to serve them an advert in the blink of an eye. It means people’s data is being broadcast all over the internet to hundreds of companies. The ICO has been investigating the practice. Naik said there were two main issues. “The micro issue is: are councils really informing people about what is going on? The macro thing is the real-time bidding ad industry. There is an ongoing complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office about this practice. They have already said they consider the practice unlawful.” Naik said it was hard to tell whether councils were making money from it. “But I imagine to councils it seems like a win-win situation.” A Google spokesperson said it did not build advertising profiles “from sensitive interest categories, including from sites offering help to address personal hardships, and we have strict policies preventing advertisers from using such data to target ads”. They told the Guardian that third-party cookies could be used to better enable basic site functions or to serve and measure advertising. Source
  9. The UK has decided to allow Huawei hardware in non-critical areas of 5G networks The UK government has announced that it will allow telecoms firms to continue using Huawei equipment in their 5G networks, but with restrictions. The government decided that only 35% of a network, including masts, can be supplied by Huawei. Further, it has said that Huawei hardware can’t be used in sensitive parts of the network, nor can it be used near military bases nor nuclear sites. Commenting on the decision, Huawei’s UK chief Victor Zhang said: “Huawei is reassured by the UK government's confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.” According to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, an “ambitious strategy” is currently been drawn up in order to diversify the supply chain. With this plan, the government hopes to attract vendors that don’t yet operate in the UK, it also plans to promote the adoption of open standards which will allow for interoperability and reduce barriers to entry. The DCMS said today’s decision will substantially improve the security and resilience of the UK’s 5G networks. With the completion of the review, the National Cyber Security Centre has also published advice for UK telecoms to follow in order to meet the new requirements. Source: BBC News Source: The UK has decided to allow Huawei hardware in non-critical areas of 5G networks (Neowin)
  10. LONDON (AP) — Britain's competition watchdog said Tuesday it launched a formal inquiry into Google's takeover of cloud data analytics company Looker Data Sciences, as it intensifies scrutiny of technology deals. The Competition and Markets Authority said it had notified the two companies on Monday that it was opening an initial inquiry and would decide on Feb. 13 whether to escalate it to a more in-depth investigation. The authority said this month it was looking into whether the $2.6 billion acquisition would result in less competition in the U.K. market. Google said in a statement that “the acquisition of Looker has received regulatory approval in the U.S. and Austria and we continue to make progress with regulators in the U.K." The U.S. tech giant said in June it was buying Looker, which helps customers visualize data, as it seeks to compete with rivals including Amazon in the lucrative cloud service business. The inquiry comes a week after the authority stepped up pressure on a separate tech deal, by threatening Amazon with an in-depth investigation of its plan to buy a stake in food delivery platform Deliveroo unless it came up with proposals to address competition concerns. Google has also come under regulatory pressure on various fronts in the U.S., where authorities at both the state and federal level have opened investigations into tech giants. Source
  11. But .uk domain suspensions are actually slightly down for the first time in recent years. Over 28,000 .uk domain names were suspended in the last year over reports of criminal activity. Nominet, which is responsible for keeping the .uk internet infrastructure secure, can suspend domains following notification from the police or other law enforcement agencies that the domain is being used for criminal activity. Domains that are suspended cannot be used as part of website or email addresses. The number of domains suspended between 1 November 2018 and 31 October 2019 was actually slightly lower than in the previous year -- 28,937 compared to 32,813. This represents around 0.22% of the 13 million-plus .uk domains currently registered and was the first time suspensions had fallen since 2014, Nominet said. Nominet said it had received requests to suspend domains from five different agencies: the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), which co-ordinates requests relating to IP infringements, made 28,606 requests followed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (178), Trading Standards (90), the Financial Conduct Authority (48) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (31). Requests for suspension can be made under a range of legislation including: Fraud Act 2006 Trade Marks Act 1994 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 Human Medicines Regulations 2012 Medical Device Regulations 2002 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 The Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002 The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 The number of requests that didn't result in a suspension was 16 -- down from 114 in the previous year. Only five suspensions were reversed; this usually happens if the offending behaviour has stopped and the enforcing agency has since confirmed that the suspension can be lifted. Nominet's anti-phishing initiative that suspends suspicious domains at the point of registration saw another 2,668 domains suspended. Domain names blocked at this stage by Nominet include ones misusing the names of big banks, tax authorities and big tech companies. Of those suspended, only 274 passed Nominet's additional due diligence. Detective Constable Weizmann Jacobs of the City of London Police's Intellectual Property Crime Unit said: "By collaborative working, we can help protect consumers from the dangers of counterfeit goods and safeguard their personal information when shopping online. When consumers purchase from illicit sites, they are unknowingly handing over their personal and payment details to criminals who often use these to commit further crime." Source
  12. Climbdown follows difficulties with implementing plan to ensure users are over 18 Plans to introduce a nationwide age verification system for online pornography have been abandoned by the government after years of technical troubles and concerns from privacy campaigners. The climbdown follows countless difficulties with implementing the policy, which would have required all pornography websites to ensure users were over 18. Methods would have included checking credit cards or allowing people to buy a “porn pass” age verification document from a newsagent. Websites that refused to comply with the policy – one of the first of its kind in the world – faced being blocked by internet service providers or having their access to payment services restricted. The culture secretary, Nicky Morgan, told parliament the policy would be abandoned. Instead, the government would instead focus on measures to protect children in the much broader online harms white paper. This is expected to introduce a new internet regulator, which will impose a duty of care on all websites and social media outlets – not just pornography sites. She said: “This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care.” Despite abandoning the proposals, Morgan said the government remained open to using age verification tools in future, saying: “The government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm.” The decision will disappoint a number of British businesses that had invested substantial time and money developing verification products. They had been hoping to capitalise on the large amount of Britons expected to verify their age in order to view legal pornography. One age verification provider estimated the potential market was as many as 25 million people. Although the age verification policy was first proposed by the Conservatives during the 2015 general election, it took years to develop and make it into law. Its implementation date was then repeatedly delayed amid difficulties with implementing the policy. The British Board of Film Classification was tasked with overseeing the system, which would be run and funded by private companies, despite the organisation’s lack of historical expertise in the world of technical internet regulation. Some of the age verification sites had close links to existing pornography providers. Concerns over the system grew as the public became increasingly aware of the approaching implementation date. Despite repeated reassurances from pornography websites and age verification sites that personal details would be kept separate from information about what users had watched, privacy campaigners continued to raise concerns about data security. In addition, earlier this year the Guardian showed how one age verification system could be sidestepped in minutes. Proponents of the policy privately accepted it would not block a persistent teenager from accessing adult material but said it could stop younger children from stumbling across images they found deeply disturbing. The policy had the backing of charities such as the NSPCC that were concerned about the impact of pornography on children. The final blow to the porn block came from an unlikely source: the European Union. Just weeks before the policy was due to be finally implemented in July, the government realised it had failed to inform the EU of its plans. This administrative error was initially announced as requiring a six-month delay – but Morgan’s announcement, made on a day when media attention was focused on the Brexit negotiations, means the age verification system has now been abandoned in its current form. Source
  13. The UK Just Got More Power From Renewables Than Fossil Fuels, a First Since 1882 Photo: Getty It’s been an eventful year for carbon-free energy in the UK. First, Great Britain went a week without coal for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. Then the country fired (wound?) up the world’s largest offshore wind farm. And on Monday, a new analysis claims that renewables generated more power in the UK than fossil fuels for three months, the first time that’s happened since 1882. While the news comes with an important caveat, it’s a sign of the radical change happening in the country that birthed the fossil fuel era. Carbon Brief, a UK-based climate news and analysis site, published the striking new analysis. It shows that from July through September, UK renewables generated 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity while fossil fuels generated 29.1 TWh. The crossover was driven by a few factors, including shrinking demand as the grid becomes more efficient as well as the growth of renewable capacity and falling costs. Coal has suffered the same fate in the UK as it has in other developed countries, with high costs making it an unattractive option to utilities. In a metaphor that’s a bit too on-the-nose in light of the Carbon Brief report, the cooling towers of what was once Europe’s most powerful coal plant came down in a controlled explosion over the weekend. The plant, known as Ferrybridge, has been shuttered since 2016 because its operator no longer saw it as economically feasible in the face of cheap renewables and natural gas. While a 0.4 TWh difference between renewable- and fossil fuel-generated electricity may not seem that impressive, it represents the electricity needs of hundreds of thousands of customers. And the context of where the UK electric generating system was just 10 years ago makes the transition all the more amazing. In the third quarter of 2009, the country generated 60.4 TWh of electricity from fossil fuels and only 5.7 TWh from renewables. The Carbon Brief analysis shows that, overall, 40 percent of electricity in the UK in the third quarter of this year came from renewables. The biggest chunk was from wind, clocking in at 20 percent, in part due to the aforementioned hugenormous (technical term, I believe) Hornsea One wind farm that came online this summer. In addition, another 6 percent came from solar. But here’s the rub: 12 percent came from burning biomass and wood pellets. While the UK classifies biomass as renewable because the trees the pellets are made from can be replanted and suck up carbon dioxide from burning said pellets, there are a number of issues, includes whether forests are actually planted and allowed to regrow. Research suggests the timeframe to reap any benefits of wood pellets as “renewables” can be decades, according to an in-depth report from Climate Central. Nuclear power also generated 19 percent of the total electricity in the UK and is an actual zero-carbon source of electricity. So even if we bump the wood pellets over the carbon-emitting side of the ledger, the UK still generated more carbon-free power from July through September than carbon-polluting power. As Carbon Brief notes, it’s “now a question of when—rather than if” the UK will go a whole year where renewables generate more electricity than fossil fuels. Not to be a dour climate journalist, but there are a few other caveats to just how big a deal this milestone is. The UK is responsible for just a shade over 1 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions. And like the U.S., the biggest source of those emissions in transportation. So yes, the Carbon Brief analysis is Very Good News, especially coming from the country where the Industrial Revolution began. But it’s not the end of the road. Far from it, in fact, since there’s also a ton of work to be done to decarbonize the UK (and the rest of the world for that matter). Source: The UK Just Got More Power From Renewables Than Fossil Fuels, a First Since 1882
  14. Despite looking to make DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) the default for its American users, Mozilla has assured culture secretary Nicky Morgan that this won't be the case in the UK. DoH has been fairly controversial, with the Internet Services Providers Association (ISPAUK) nominating Mozilla for an 'Internet Villain' over the whole thing, saying it will "bypass UK filtering obligations and parental controls, undermining internet safety standards in the UK." In his letter to Morgan, Mozilla vice president of global policy, trust and security, Alan Davidson, stressed that the company “has no plans to turn on our DoH feature by default in the United Kingdom and will not do so without further engagement with public and private stakeholders”. He did add that Mozilla does "strongly believe that DoH would offer real security benefits to UK citizens. The DNS is one of the oldest parts of the internet’s architecture, and remains largely untouched by efforts to make the web more secure. "Because current DNS requests are unencrypted, the road that connects your citizens to their online destination is still open and used by bad actors looking to violate user privacy, attack communications, and spy on browsing activity. People’s most personal information, such as their health-related data, can be tracked, collected, leaked and used against people’s best interest. Your citizens deserve to be protected from that threat.” Whilst safety is an issue, it has to be balanced with privacy, and walking the line between freedom and forms of censorship is never easy. The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is often cited in this debate, with a government spokesperson stating that it's "an abhorrent crime that this Government is committed to tackling," and one of the measures is blocking certain websites that DoH would allow users to circumvent. “While we look to support security and privacy online, it is vital that all sectors of the digital industry consider child safety when developing their systems and services. We are working with industry on solutions to any potential problems as part of our ongoing work to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online," they said. Source
  15. UK Parliament: Ban all loot boxes until evidence proves they’re safe for kids Call comes as part of massive inquiry into "immersive and addictive technologies." Enlarge / UK Parliament sends a clear signal: loot boxes in series like FIFA are on notice. EA / Machkovech UK Parliament published a wide-ranging inquiry on Thursday looking into the rise of "immersive and addictive technologies" and what the British government should do to recognize manipulative, unsafe, and otherwise uncouth business practices in a rapidly changing industry. The report covers a lot: user tracking, cyberbullying, esports, social media, and on and on. Tucked into this sweeping report is at least one wholly firm rebuke of a notorious games industry practice: the loot box. And as far as Parliament is concerned, loot boxes should be banned outright in any games targeted to minors. "We recommend that loot boxes that contain the element of chance should not be sold to children playing games, and instead in-game credits should be earned through rewards won through playing the games," the Parliament report reads. "In the absence of research which proves that no harm is being done by exposing children to gambling through the purchasing of loot boxes, then, we believe the precautionary principle should apply and they are not permitted in games played by children until the evidence proves otherwise." Not Kinder about it This statement follows an awkward exchange between Parliament and an EA executive during a June hearing. At that time, EA Legal and Government Affairs VP Kerry Hopkins copped to the "surprise" factor attached to games' loot boxes—which ask players to blindly pay for a wholly random in-game item, outfit, or reward. After comparing loot boxes to retail items like Kinder eggs (and never acknowledging that with those eggs, customers at least get a guarantee of some chocolate), Hopkins went on to call gaming's loot boxes "quite ethical and fun [and] enjoyable to people." Thursday's statement from Parliament recalls this specific description from Hopkins, then responds: This [description] is noticeably out of step with the attitude of many of the gamers who contacted us following our evidence session, including those who vehemently rejected her characterisation of packs not as loot boxes but as “surprise mechanics.” One gamer called the company’s testimony to us “a bare face lie." Another told us that the company has "heavily marketed and referred to their systems as ‘loot boxes’ for several years and... the mechanics of the system are exactly the same no matter what they choose to call it." Coincidentally, much of Parliament's Thursday commentary on loot boxes revolves around EA, particularly the company's top-selling FIFA series of video games. The commentary points out EA's bullish admission that FIFA's "Ultimate Team" mode, which revolves around wholly random drops of purchasable cards, accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars of digital sales revenue. After quoting EA sales figures, the report explains how the annualized game series routinely wipes players' card collections when jumping from one year's version to the next. "One gamer told us that this cycle resulted in them spending 'almost £800 to £1000 a year annually on FIFA,'" the report says. "Another gamer told us that because a pack’s contents 'directly affects gameplay because some players are not as good as others,' it incentivises people to keep buying packs in the hope of getting better players and, therefore, performing better in the game." The heart of this inquiry subsection can be found in a quote taken from a concerned UK citizen, which acknowledges, then obliterates, the gaming industry's common "only cosmetic" defense of loot box elements: "Children are especially vulnerable because they lack the maturity to understand that these purchases are manipulative, and their parents may not understand that these purchases are entirely unnecessary." What’s to be done? The inquiry takes a further scientific look at the psychology of game players enticed by loot boxes. After citing multiple studies, the inquiry concedes that a clear, causal link has yet to be established between loot boxes and problem gambling. Still, the current preponderance of evidence has at least convinced researchers that more transparency about loot boxes in games, and about their effective overlap with games of chance like slot machines, should be made apparent to game players and their parents—if not used as consideration to slap age restrictions on said games on par with gambling. To buffer this argument about the gambling-like qualities of loot box acquisition, the study takes a lengthy dive into the black market of virtual item sales, particularly attached to Counter Strike: Global Offensive. "The volume, variety and sophistication of websites advertising opportunities to exchange in-game items for cash, indicates that to term such circumvention of regulation as ‘occasional’ understates the extent of this issue for certain games," the report reads. But gambling-like regulation of loot box practices is stymied by at least one current British law. "Purchasing loot boxes does not meet the regulatory definition of licensable gambling under the Gambling Act 2005 because the in-game items have no real-world monetary value outside the games," the inquiry reads. (That's one big reason the inquiry cites so much data about these in-game items having cash value in the black market.) The report thus suggests that "the Government should bring forward regulations under section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 in the next parliamentary session to specify that loot boxes are a game of chance." From there, either a rewriting of the law may begin, or regulators would at least be held to public scrutiny in explaining why they wouldn't do so. Source: UK Parliament: Ban all loot boxes until evidence proves they’re safe for kids (Ars Technica)
  16. THE USE of facial recognition by South Wales Police has been deemed lawful in a ruling on Wednesday by the High Court in London following a judicial review. Welsh cops' use of facial recognition is legal, High Court rules Civil rights group Liberty and local Cardiff resident Ed Bridges had challenged the deployment of facial recognition in the first legal challenge to UK police use of facial recognition technology. It was first used by South Wales Police in a trial during the Champions League Final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in June 2017. In total, South Wales Police is believed to have scanned the faces of more than 500,000 members of the public. Bridges claimed that he had been scanned at least twice - on Queen Street in Cardiff in December 2017 and at a protest against the arms trade in March 2018. Metropolitan Police has also trialled facial recognition, with less than convincing results. Liberty had claimed in court that facial recognition systems were little different from police fingerprinting or obtaining DNA, around which tight legal safeguards exist. However, the court ruled that while facial recognition might infringe upon people's privacy rights it wasn't unlawful per se. The court declared that the current legal framework governing facial recognition is adequate, but ought to be subject to periodic review. Liberty, though, is campaigning for a complete ban on what it describes as an "authoritarian surveillance tool". Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said: "This disappointing judgment does not reflect the very serious threat that facial recognition poses to our rights and freedoms. "Facial recognition is a highly intrusive surveillance technology that allows the police to monitor and track us all. It is time that the government recognised the danger this dystopian technology presents to our democratic values and banned its use. Facial recognition has no place on our streets." Police use of facial recognition, Liberty added, involves the processing of sensitive, personal data of everyone who is scanned, not just those on a watchlist. The organisation has vowed to appeal. South Wales Police typically use facial recognition in cameras attached to vans. These take scans of people's faces, making a biometric map of the face which is then run against a database of facial biometric maps. When a positive match is made, the image is flagged for a manual review. UK police have around 20 million mugshots in various databases. South Wales Police is also planning to put the technology onto police mobile phones, which will make its use even more widespread. Source
  17. The CEO of an energy firm based in the UK thought he was following his boss’s urgent orders in March when he transferred funds to a third-party. But the request actually came from the AI-assisted voice of a fraudster. The Wall Street Journal reports that the mark believed he was speaking to the CEO of his businesses’ parent company based in Germany. The German-accented caller told him to send €220,000 ($243,000 USD) to a Hungarian supplier within the hour. The firm’s insurance company, Euler Hermes Group SA, shared information about the crime with WSJ but would not reveal the name of the targeted businesses. Euler Hermes fraud expert Rüdiger Kirsch told WSJ that the victim recognized his superior’s voice because it had a hint of a German accent and the same “melody.” This was reportedly the first time Euler Hermes has dealt with clients being affected by crimes that used AI mimicry. Kirsch told WSJ the fraudster called the victim company three times. Once the transfer occurred, the attacker called a second time to falsely claim that the money had been reimbursed. Then the hacker reportedly called a third time to ask for another payment. Even though the same fake voice was used, the last call was made with an Austrian phone number and the “reimbursement” had not gone through, so the victim grew more skeptical of the caller’s authenticity and didn’t comply. AI-generated voice technology has become disturbingly realistic in recent months and Kirsch told the Journal that it he believes commercially-available software was used to facilitate the fraudulent executive impersonation. In May, the AI company Dessa released a simulation of the podcaster Joe Rogan voice that was a near-perfect replica of his t’s gravelly timbre. It was so similar to the real thing that a longtime listener would have difficulty distinguishing between Joe Rogan and “Joe Fauxgan.” As for the unidentified energy companies stolen money, it was reportedly sent to a Hungarian bank account, moved to an account in Mexico, and subsequently distributed to various other locations. No suspects have been identified. Dessa demonstrated the technology in a blog post that discusses the societal implications of the technology and suggests a few examples of criminal ways the deepfake voices could be used, including election manipulation, impersonating family members, and gaining security clearance. The blog states that “in the next few years (or even sooner), we’ll see the technology advance to the point where only a few seconds of audio are needed to create a life-like replica of anyone’s voice on the planet.” The energy firm CEO was tricked by a fake AI-assisted voice two months before Dessa’s warning was posted. Source
  18. A court has ordered Grant West to pay back his victims with his cryptocurrency savings. But how much are they worth now, two years after his arrest? LONDON—A UK court today ordered a hacker, who carried out attacks on more than 100 firms, to pay back victims using cryptocurrency. The problem? The bitcoin, which was worth more than $2 million two years ago when the crimes were committed, is now worth half that. The unusual case is yet another ruling that could bolster bitcoin’s legal standing as an asset class. Police say Grant West, 27, from Kent in southeast England, operated on the dark web under the pseudonym Courvoisier, and specialized in phishing attacks on a number of companies including Uber and the UK supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s. West was arrested in September 2017 and accused of securing the financial details of tens of thousands of customers. Police say he sold the data, and converted the profits to cryptocurrencies. He received a 10-year jail sentence in May for charges including conspiracy to defraud, and criminal possession. Crown Court judge Joanna Korner ruled today that the state was entitled to confiscate West’s cryptocurrency and that he must obey the confiscation order or face an extra four years in prison. However, the holdings have decreased by nearly half during the past two years, according to Reuters, and prosecutors are finding it difficult to assess the true value of restitution. The value of the seized assets was eventually calculated by authorities on Friday at a rate of about £8,500 a bitcoin, with reference to the Proceeds of Crime Act, according to the UK’s Guardian paper. Prosecuting counsel, Kevin Barry, told the court, “As the court recognizes today, as do the parties, there is likely to be fluctuation which will require in due course for the order to be amended upwards or downwards.” Thus far, British law says that Bitcoin is “data,” not property, meaning that you can’t claim it back if someone’s stolen it. But earlier this week, in an interim judgement on a cryptocurrency hacking case, the UK High Court ruled that bitcoin is "property," potentially making it easier for victims to claim restitution. Source
  19. Just over one million computers in the NHS are still using Windows 7. With less than half a year to go before support ends for Windows 7, about three-quarters of computers in the UK's National Health Service (NHS) are still running the OS. Just over one million computers in the NHS are still using Windows 7, according to a written answer from the Department of Health and Social Care. Having so many machines still running Windows 7 is a problem, according to Jo Platt MP, shadow cabinet office minister, as the end of extended support in January 2020 will mean no more fixes and patches without a costly custom-support deal. "With less than six months before Windows 7 support expires, it is deeply concerning that over a million NHS computers, over three quarters of the total NHS IT estate, are still using this operating system," she says. Platt drew attention to the WannaCry attacks on unpatched computers in 2017, which disrupted NHS systems and led to almost 20,000 appointments being cancelled, with the total cost to the NHS estimated to be around £92m. "The WannaCry cyber attack two years ago starkly proved the dangers of operating outdated software. Unless the government swiftly acts and learns from their past mistakes they are risking a repeat of WannaCry," she says. Answering Platt's parliamentary question, Jackie Doyle-Price, then parliamentary under secretary of state for mental health, inequalities and suicide prevention, said that while 1.05 million NHS computers were still running Windows 7, the migration process to Windows 10 was underway. "All NHS organisations, with the exception of one which had already upgraded to Windows 10, have signed up to receive Windows 10 licences and Advanced Threat Protection," she wrote. "Deployment of Windows 10 is going well and in line with target to make sure the NHS is operating on supported software when Windows 7 goes out of support in 2020." However, while Doyle-Price suggests the NHS will stop using Windows 7 before the 2020 deadline, the government chose not to answer a separate question from Platt about whether it was in talks with Microsoft about a custom support deal for Windows 7 post-2020. The government also faced further criticism for a minority of NHS machines still running Windows XP, Microsoft's 2001 operating system that went out of support five years ago. Despite the risk of running these Windows XP machines, Doyle-Price said it was not "not possible to set a timeframe for complete removal of Windows XP from all NHS machines". "This is because removal is not always possible, particularly where Windows XP is embedded in medical devices," she wrote. "All NHS organisations have been given guidance on how to mitigate the risks if they cannot completely remove Windows XP from their estate, for example, they can segregate the affected machines from the network. They can also contact NHS Digital for further bespoke advice and support to mitigate risks." She says additional management, monitoring, and risk mitigation was provided via the NHS's Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT). Last year the Cabinet Office confirmed that government does not centrally track the number of Windows XP computers operating across the public sector. While Microsoft ended extended support for Windows XP in 2014, the UK government paid £5.5m for a year's extension to April 2015. The problem of public bodies using operating systems long after support ends is not limited to the UK, in 2015 the US Navy agreed to pay Microsoft millions to keep supporting Windows XP post-2014. Source
  20. Human rights group Liberty has lost its latest High Court challenge against the Government’s mass surveillance powers. Liberty brought the challenge against parts of the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) – dubbed the “Snoopers’ Charter” by critics – which allow intelligence agencies to obtain and store communications data, and take remote control of electronic devices through “bulk hacking”. The group claimed the Government’s powers under IPA, which include the power to intercept the private information of the entire UK population, are too wide and therefore breach citizens’ human rights to privacy and freedom of expression. At the High Court in London on Monday, Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Holgate dismissed Liberty’s claim that IPA was incompatible with human rights law. Announcing the decision, Lord Justice Singh said the court rejected Liberty’s contention that IPA “does not contain sufficient safeguards against the risk of abuse of power”. The judge added that IPA included several “safeguards against the possible abuse of power” in response to concerns about the existence of the “bulk powers” provided for by the Act. Source
  21. John McAfee of antivirus software fame has arrived in London from the Dominican Republic, where he had been detained for several days with his wife and several others for entering the Caribbean nation with a cache of weapons on his yacht, his lawyer said Friday. Authorities “asked him where he wanted to go, and he decided on London,” his attorney Candido Simon told Reuters. News of his arrival in the UK came two days after McAfee, 73, the eponymous founder of the PC software security giant, said on Twitter that he was released “after four days of confinement” along with five other people, including his wife, Janice. “I was well treated. My superiors were friendly and helpful. In spite of the helpful circumstances, we’ve decided to move on,” the British-born tech guru said in a tweet Wednesday. After Dominican authorities ensured that the US had no active legal cases or extradition requests for McAfee, they allowed him to choose where he wanted to go, Simon said. McAfee has been sought by US tax authorities since January 2012, when he announced that he had fled the country and “living in exile” on a boat because of felony charges handed down by the Internal Revenue Service. A spokesman for the IRS told The Post on Friday that he could not release any information about the case, as per policy. McAfee — who is seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination for US president in 2020 — asked his Twitter followers on Friday whether he should also campaign to be British prime minister. “Can a person run for, and be, President of the United States and Prime Minister of Great Britain simultaneously? Yes. Absolutely. Without question. But I believe I am one of the few people still alive who could qualify for the combined position,” he tweeted. Earlier this week, McAfee docked his yacht, Great Mystery, in Puerto Plata, a province on the DR’s Atlantic north coast, where the weapons and ammo stash was seized, Reuters reported. Customs officials said they found pistols, a shotgun and bars of suspected silver on the yacht. While in custody, McAfee retweeted a photo posted by his wife of himself sitting shirtless in a cell. “@theemrsmcafee insisted I looked better in this jailhouse photo since I was smiling. Janice was incarcerated in the cellblock next door at the same time. She just forgot how to properly smuggle phones,” he wrote. “My crime is not filing tax returns – not a crime. The rest is propaganda by the U.S. government to silence me. My voice is the voice of dissent. If I am silenced, dissent itself will be next,” he wrote in a July 19 tweet. “The CIA has attempted to collect us. We are at sea now and will report more soon. I will continue to be dark for the next few days,” he said in another tweet, which included a photograph of himself and a woman brandishing rifles. On July 22, he wrote that they had been “at sea 4 and a half in rough weather. Nearing port. All is well. Will be back in the saddle shortly.” McAfee said he couldn’t wait to “get off of this God forsaken boat that lost air conditioning and water 18 hours into the trip. None of us have bathed for 5 days.” His Twitter account was later taken over by his campaign manager Rob Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Loggia-Ramirez, who wrote: “If John misses his next check-in, events will be set into motion that I cannot prevent once they have begun. At the peak of his wealth, McAfee’s net worth topped $100 million – but he reportedly lost the bulk of his fortune during the global financial crisis in 2009. He then liquidated his assets and moved to Belize, where he surrounded himself with a harem of young women – many of whom moved in with him at his heavily fortified beachfront compound on Ambergris Caye. In 2012, Belize police said McAfee was a “person of interest” in the murder of a neighbor. He told the news outlet Wired in November of that year that he was forced into hiding because local authorities were trying to kill him. Prime Minister Dean Barrow dismissed the allegations, describing McAfee as “extremely paranoid — even bonkers.” McAfee was later arrested in Guatemala, where he sought political asylum but was charged with entering the country illegally. He was hospitalized for suspected heart attacks, which he later claimed he faked to avoid being handed over to police in Belize. On Dec. 21, 2012, Guatemalan authorities deported him to the US, where he reportedly met Janice, who solicited him as a prostitute in South Beach, Florida. The couple have lived in constant fear of his assassination by agents of the Belize government, according to a Newsweek report. McAfee sold his famous anti-virus software company, which he founded in 1987, in 1994 for about $75 million. “John has secreted data with individuals across the world. I know neither their identities or locations. They will release their payloads if John goes missing.” McAfee said in a video earlier this year that he was charged for “using cryptocurrencies in criminal acts” by Tennessee authorities, according to bitcoin.com. “I am running my campaign in exile on this boat for the duration — I will not allow them to imprison me and shut my voice down, which they will do immediately — Why? I am a flight risk. Obviously, I am in flight,” McAfee said in the video. The cybersecurity pioneer also boasted in a Jan. 3 tweet that he had not “filed a tax return for 8 years,” saying “taxation is illegal” and that his “net income is negative.” Source
  22. UK made illegal copies and mismanaged Schengen travelers database EU officials indirectly confirm UK's gross mismanagement detailed in an unconfirmed report last week. Authorities in the United Kingdom have made unauthorized copies of data stored inside a EU database for tracking undocumented migrants, missing people, stolen cars, or suspected criminals. Named the Schengen Information System (SIS), this is a EU-run database that stores information such as names, personal details, photographs, fingerprints, and arrest warrants for 500,000 non-EU citizens denied entry into Europe, over 100,000 missing people, and over 36,000 criminal suspects. The database was created for the sole purpose of helping EU countries manage access to the passport-free Schengen travel zone. The UK was granted access to this database in 2015, even if it's not an official member of the Schengen zone. 2018 report revealed violations on the UK's side In May 2018, reporters from EU Observer obtained a secret EU report that highlighted years of violations in managing the SIS database by UK authorities. According to the report, UK officials made copies of this database and stored it at airports and ports in unsafe conditions. Furthermore, by making copies, the UK was always working with outdated versions of the database. This meant UK officials wouldn't know in time if a person was removed from SIS, resulting in unnecessary detainments, or if a person was added to the database, allowing criminals to move through the UK and into the Schengen travel zone. Furthermore, they also mismanaged and misused this data by providing unsanctioned access to this highly-sensitive and secret information to third-party contractors, including US companies (IBM, ATOS, CGI, and others). The report expressed concerns that by doing so, the UK indirectly allowed contractors to copy this data as well, or allow US officials to request the database from a contractor under the US Patriot Act. Report confirmed this week At the time, EU authorities never confirmed the report's validity. However, in comments made earlier this week, EU officials inadvertantly admitted to the report's existence, and its accuracy. "Those are meant to be confidential discussions that we have with the individual member states," said European Commissioner for Security Julian King, as quoted by Schengen Visa Info and EU Observer, earlier this week. "It is not just one member state that has some challenges in this area, there are a number of member states that have challenges in this area," he added. As a result of these comments, Sophie in 't Veld, a Dutch politician and a Member of the European Parliament, has requested that the European Commission make the report public and reveal the real depth of the UK's abuse and mismanagement of this highly sensitive database -- which will also be at the core of a EU-wide biometrics system in the upcoming future. The UK authorities made illegal copies of the #Schengen Information System, incl photos & fingerprints of EU citizens and gave access to US companies ❌ Will the @EU_Commission present findings of a detailed & swift inquiry to @Europarl_EN? Questions from @RenewEurope LIBE⤵️ pic.twitter.com/HDtZkq8Z4o — Sophie in 't Veld (@SophieintVeld) July 26, 2019 Source: UK made illegal copies and mismanaged Schengen travelers database
  23. Brexit, Huawei and a potential digital tax are all challenges that Boris Johnson must tackle as he takes power. As of Wednesday afternoon, the UK will have a new prime minister in Conservative politician Boris Johnson. It's a time in history when governments around the world are coming to terms with the increasing crossover between technology and politics. With the society moving full pelt into the era of 5G, deepfakes and new surveillance technologies, Johnson will have decisions to make in order to secure the country's position as a tech leader in the world. The new PM isn't known for being particularly tech-savvy, but regardless, as leader of the country it will be his responsibility to tackle and solve a number of tech-related challenges, starting with those he has created for himself. Full fiber nation In his acceptance speech on Tuesday, Johnson promised "fantastic full fiber broadband sprouting in every home" in the country. This builds on a promise made last year by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that promised full fiber access for the entire country (up from 7 percent of households this May, according to regulator Ofcom) by 2033. But the pledge Johnson has made to the people of the UK sees that deadline brought forward significantly. Instead, he said during his leadership election campaign, British citizens could expect access to fiber by 2025. Industry bodies have already criticized the lack of detail in Johnson's plan. "Boris Johnson's ambitious commitment to achieve full fiber coverage by 2025 is welcome, but needs to be matched with ambitious regulatory change, including reform of the fibre tax," responded the Internet Service Providers Association (Ispa). The National Infrastructure Commission meanwhile estimates the cost of upgrading the entire country to full fiber will be £33.4 billion over the course of 30 years. We're still waiting for Johnson's own estimate plus the full breakdown of his plan, but given that he listed the rollout high in his agenda, it would be fair to assume this is a priority for him. Brexit/Techxit A week before he became prime minister of the UK, Johnson wrote at length in the Telegraph that if technology can put men on the moon, it could also help solve the "technical and logistical" problem of resolving the Irish border problems to help the UK leave the European Union. "If they could use hand-knitted computer code to make a frictionless re-entry to Earth's atmosphere in 1969, we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border," he said. Johnson has long been known for his penchant for an elaborate metaphor and tendency towards hyperbole, but this was one example that had experts in politics, technology and science scratching their heads. Just as with fiber, the plan was short on specifics. Johnson, an ardent Brexit campaigner, is likely to want the UK's exit from the EU to go ahead at all costs -- even if that means crashing out without a deal. Tech industry body techUK is campaigning hard against a "No-deal Brexit". "TechUK's members have repeatedly warned of the damaging impact that a No Deal Brexit would have on their business and we would urge Mr Johnson to put all the talent and resources at his disposal to the task of avoiding this outcome," said TechUK CEO Julian Alexander. "This will be vital if we are to succeed in securing many of the opportunities that lie ahead for the UK beyond Brexit." With the major exception of James Dyson, tech leaders in the UK remain underwhelmed and unconvinced that Brexit will be a positive thing for the country's tech industry. It'll be up to Johnson to try and prove them wrong. How do you solve a problem like Huawei? While the US has vocally and proactively discussed how it will deal with potential security threats posed by Chinese tech giant Huawei to the country's telecoms infrastructure, the UK has done exactly the opposite. Over the past few months, it has continued to stall on deciding whether Huawei equipment should be used in the country's 5G network, until it kicked the decision into the long grass on Monday for the next prime minister to deal with. 5G and Huawei are Johnson's problem now. Being a leader in 5G is a key part of the government's economic strategy for the UK, and ensuring next-generation networks can rollout without delay is an essential part of making this happen. Two carriers, EE and Vodafone, have both already launched their 5G networks, both using Huawei equipment. You might think that makes it too late for the government to decide to place a ban on the company, and yet it's not. Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee released a statement last week, urging the next leader of the country to tackle the decision as soon as possible for fear of causing serious damage to the UK's relationships with its allies. "The new Prime Minister will no doubt have many issues to deal with in his first days in office," said the statement. "Nevertheless, this Committee urges him to take a decision on which companies will be involved in our 5G network, so that all concerned can move forward." Logging on and stepping up It's also not as if Johnson comes to the job with a fresh slate, as he would if the Conservative party had won a General Election and found itself thrust into power. He is preceded by the legacies of two former Conservative prime ministers. As we can see in the case of Huawei, he'll have some tidying up to do. He'll also be expected to enter into the debate on police use of facial recognition technology. His government will need to decide if and when the UK's controversial online porn block and the associated age-verification technology will come into play, after it was once again delayed in June. Then there's his own digital legacy to consider. On one lonesome occasion, Johnson also indicated that he might like to introduce a digital tax for tech giants operating in and out of the UK. "I think it's deeply unfair that high street businesses are paying tax through the nose... whereas the internet giants, the FAANGs -- Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google -- are paying virtually nothing." Meanwhile he faces competition on the tech leadership front from France just across the water, which already introduced its own digital tax in January, and has shown itself to be adept at wooing Silicon Valley CEOs in a way that the UK government hasn't even attempted to replicate. In the era of deepfakes, fake news and increased regulation of tech across the board and across the world, this is only the beginning for Johnson. Will the man of the meandering moon-landing metaphors be able to understand and explain the fine intricacies of his Brexit tech solution? Will he follow through on his vague digital tax hint? Will he ensure that even as it leaves the EU, the UK remains a leader in the tech and digital industries in the region for years to come? Over to you, prime minister. Source
  24. The company that owns Pornhub and YouPorn has developed a verification system called AgeID X-rated websites were set to be blocked on 15 July this year, but now the new laws have been delayed again. It is still unknown how far the porn block implementation will be pushed back, with an administrative error causing an indefinite wait. All internet providers will block x-rated websites when the new system comes into place, with users having to verify their age before they can proceed. Users will be automatically blocked from using free sites such as PornHub and YouPorn, unless they can prove their age. Age-appropriate content This automatic block, introduced under the Digital Economy Act 2017, is being put in place in an attempt to prevent children from seeing inappropriate content. The Act states that commercial providers of pornographic content should have age verification checks on their websites, in order to prevent children from viewing explicit images and videos. Proof of age The terms of the Digital Economy Act 2017 state that online commercial pornography services which can be accessed from the UK must use an age verification system. Mindgeek, the company that owns Pornhub and YouPorn, has developed a system called AgeID. James Clark, Director of Communications at AgeID, said: “First, a user can register an AgeID account using an email address and password, both of which are protected by a salted, one-way hash. The user verifies their email address and then chooses an age verification option from our list of 3rd party providers, using options such as Mobile SMS, Credit Card, Passport, or Driving Licence. The user then leaves AgeID and enters the details required to prove their age into the site of the third-party age verification provider. The third party will then pass back either a pass or fail to AgeID. Due to the intentional separation of AgeID and its providers, AgeID can neither see, nor store any of this age verification data.” “Once verified, users will be able to seamlessly browse between all AgeID protected sites and use multiple devices without the need for repeated verification. It is a one-time verification, with a simple single sign-on for future access. To clarify, if a user verifies on one AgeID protected site, they will not need to perform this verification again on any other site carrying AgeID.” Users will have to verify their age using a driver’s license, passport or credit card This AgeID system will then allow users to be able to log into any porn sites that uses this AgeID system with their username and password. Non-compliance The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the UK’s pornography regulator, states that pornographic websites which do the following will not be considered compliant with the new law: relying solely on the user to confirm their age with no cross-checking of information – for example by using a ‘tick box’ system or requiring the user to only input their date of birth using a general disclaimer, such as ‘anyone using this website will be deemed to be over 18′ accepting age-verification through the use of online payment methods which may not require a user to be over 18 – for example by asking for ownership confirmation of a debit card checking against publicly available or otherwise easily known information, such as name, address and date of birth Any porn site that fails to comply with the news rules will face a fine of up to £250,000, or a blanket block by UK internet service providers. The BBFC will also be able to block porn websites if they fail to show that they are denying under-18s access to their sites. A spokesperson from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said: “This is a world-leading step forward to protect our children from adult content which is currently far too easy to access online. “The Government, and the BBFC as the regulator, have taken the time to get this right and we will announce a commencement date shortly.” Source
  25. BT has confirmed it will offer 5G mobile plans to its residential and business customers from this autumn, starting with those on a BT Plus package. The company’s EE brand was the first to launch 5G mobile services in the UK this May and BT says its own brand divisions will be the first to offer the service as part of a converged mobile and broadband package. 5G for BT mobile customers will initially be available in the busiest parts of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol, with further rollouts around the country promised. Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division, said: “We’re bringing together the best fibre and mobile connections to help keep our customers connected, both on the go and at home. “Launching 5G for BT customers will give them the opportunity to experience the fastest mobile speeds in the busiest areas of the UK, and our BT Plus customers will have the first opportunity to sign up for 5G.” Further details on the launch of 5G for BT Plus customers including 5G device availability will be announced in due course. Source
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