Online gambling firms may be breaking the law by making it very difficult for players to collect their winnings, the competition regulator has said.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said gambling “shouldn’t be a con” and is launching an inquiry into whether customers are treated fairly.
Online gambling has grown dramatically, and 5.5 million Britons now regularly log on to betting sites.
The industry said it would co-operate fully with the CMA’s investigation.
The competition watchdog said many people found it hard to win the money they are expecting.
“Gambling inevitably involves taking a risk, but it shouldn’t be a con,” said Nisha Arora, the CMA’s senior director for consumer enforcement.
“We’ve heard worrying complaints suggesting people may be lured into signing up for promotions with little chance of winning because of unfair and complex conditions.”
Sarah Harrison, the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, which will work alongside the CMA on the inquiry, said: “Gambling, by its very nature, is always going to involve risk, but customers must have faith that if they win, they will not end up feeling that the deck is stacked against them because of an obscure condition that they did not properly understand.”
The investigation could result in enforcement action against individual gaming sites, or prosecution in the courts.
Hard to challenge
Online gambling firms typically advertise welcome bonuses of up to several thousand pounds, or supposedly free bets.
But the small print may disqualify certain games, or require customers to spend large amounts of money before they qualify.
The CMA is also concerned that:
Consumers can find it difficult to withdraw their deposit when they want to stop playing
It is difficult to challenge any decisions made by the betting site
Complaints sometimes have to be made within 7 days
Betting sites can alter the odds without the knowledge of gamers
However, the Remote Gambling Association – which represents the industry – said there was no reason to believe there were widespread failings amongst its members.
It said it would be wrong to pre-judge the outcome of the CMA’s inquiry.
I ‘won’ £35,000
Chris Sattin from Gloucester was playing roulette on a website called Maria Casino and won £35,000, but he wasn’t allowed to withdraw his winnings.
He told Radio 4′s You and Yours: “I was shaking, my adrenaline was pumping. I pressed on the iPhone to withdraw, but nothing was happening. Because I’d never won these sums of money before, I thought maybe it’s only happening because it’s a large sum of money and I need to contact customer services.”
Maria Casino told Chris he had an account with its sister company Unibet, and he had used a self-exclusion feature on the site – something introduced by the Gambling Commission to help problem gamblers.
Chris told the company he had self-excluded only to close his account. But Maria Casino said this breached the company’s terms and conditions.
You and Yours contacted Maria Casino about Chris’s case and they decided to pay him the £35,000 winnings.
Updated versions of Linux that no longer suffer the bug are now being widely distributed. Millions of computers, including a majority of web servers, run Linux or one of its variants.
“The nature of the vulnerability lends itself to extremely reliable exploitation,” Dan Rosenberg, a security researcher at Azimuth Security, told tech news site Ars Technica. He added that it was the “most serious” bug of its type ever found in Linux.
The vulnerability allows attackers to steadily increase the amount of control they can exert over a target system.
Security expert Graham Cluley said the bug was of a type that did not normally prompt action because they were less likely to be exploited. However, he said, Dirty Cow should be taken seriously because there was some evidence that it was being actively abused.
Attack code that capitalised on the weakly protected sub-system was captured by developer Phil Oester as it was used in an attempt to take over a server he runs.
Mr Oester told the V3 tech news site that the vulnerability was easy to use and was “almost certain” to be more widely used by cyberthieves.
Hackers used internet-connected home devices, such as CCTV cameras and printers, to attack popular websites on Friday, security analysts say.
Twitter, Spotify, and Reddit were among the sites taken offline on Friday.
Each uses a company called Dyn, which was the target of the attack, to direct users to its website.
Security analysts now believe the attack used the “internet of things” – web-connected home devices – to launch the assault.
Dyn is a DNS service – an internet “phone book” which directs users to the internet address where the website is stored. Such services are a crucial part of web infrastructure.
On Friday, it came under attack – a distributed denial of service (DDoS) – which relies on thousands of machines sending co-ordinated messages to overwhelm the service.
The “global event” involved “tens of millions” of internet addresses.
Security firm Flashpoint said it had confirmed that the attack used “botnets” infected with the “Mirai” malware.
Many of the devices involved come from Chinese manufacturers, with easy-to-guess usernames and passwords that cannot be changed by the user – a vulnerability which the malware exploits.
“Mirai scours the Web for IoT (Internet of Things) devices protected by little more than factory-default usernames and passwords,” explained cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs, “and then enlists the devices in attacks that hurl junk traffic at an online target until it can no longer accommodate legitimate visitors or users.”
The owner of the device would generally have no way of knowing that it had been compromised to use in an attack, he wrote.
The incidents mark a change in tactics for online attackers.
DDoS attacks are typically aimed at a single website. Friday’s attack on Dyn, which acts as a directory service for huge numbers of firms, affected several of the world’s most popular websites at once.
The use of internet-connected home devices to send the attacking messages is also a relatively new phenomenon, but may become more common.
The Mirai software used in these attacks was released publicly in September – which means anyone with the skill could build their own attacking botnet.
On social media, many researchers and analysts expressed frustration with the security gap being exploited by attackers.
“Today we answered the question ‘what would happen if we connected a vast number of cheap, crummy embedded devices to broadband networks?’” wrote Matthew Green, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute.
Jeff Jarmoc, head of security for global business service Salesforce, pointed out that internet infrastructure is supposed to be more robust.
“In a relatively short time we’ve taken a system built to resist destruction by nuclear weapons and made it vulnerable to toasters,” he tweeted.
Apple has complained of a “flood” of counterfeit goods masquerading as its products being sold on Amazon.com.
The claim relates to items sold via Amazon’s “fulfilment” scheme, whereby third parties list their goods on the retail giant’s site, store their inventory in its warehouses and rely on it for deliveries.
Apple warns the alleged fakes are potentially life-threatening.
But it is suing one of the vendors rather than Amazon itself.
The defendant, New York-based Mobile Star LLC, could not be reached for comment and has yet to file its own legal paperwork.
Amazon says it takes such matters seriously.
“Amazon has zero tolerance for the sale of counterfeits on our site,” a spokeswoman told the BBC.
“We work closely with manufacturers and brands and pursue wrongdoers aggressively.”
Apple said it had bought “well over” 100 iPhone devices, own-brand power adapters and charging cables, and had found almost 90% of them were fakes.
“Unlike genuine Apple products, they are not subjected to industry-standard consumer safety testing and are poorly constructed with inferior or missing components, flawed design and inadequate electrical insulation,” it said.
“These counterfeits have the potential to overheat, catch fire and deliver a deadly shock to consumers while in normal use.”
It added that customers might be fooled into believing the products were safe because Amazon was perceived to be one of the US’s most trustworthy companies.
“Consumers, relying on Amazon.com’s reputation, have no reason to suspect the power products they purchased… are anything but genuine.”
One blogger who has previously highlighted what he calls “Amazon’s fraudulent seller problem” suggested Apple should be more aggressive in its effort to tackle the issue.
A range of “Brexit scenarios” will face players of the Football Manager 2017 game when it is released next month.
Gamers will have to manage the transfer of virtual football players in “soft” and “hard” versions of Brexit – affecting whether they are able to move freely between the UK and the EU.
However, in a further scenario, work permits may be made available under special conditions.
Managers will receive an alert informing them of new circumstances.
The decision to include the feature was made immediately after the UK’s vote on EU membership in June, according to Miles Jacobson, the game’s director at UK games firm Sports Interactive.
“I started working on the feature on the Saturday morning after the vote,” he told the BBC. “I was trying to work out how it would affect my business and the sport that I love.
“I sat on the sofa for two days reading as much as I could from the pro- and anti-Brexit camps.”
Mr Jacobson added that he went into the office the following Monday and told his team, despite the game’s features having already been finalised, that he wanted to include the Brexit scenarios in the finished title.
“The fact that this is going to happen in the next few years means that it really has to be in the game,” he explained.
By means of an example, Mr Jacobson said that in a test game played last night, the UK left the EU and Scotland voted to become an independent country.
In his game, the regulations over work permits were relaxed slightly but were newly applied to EU nationals.
“Many games these days are complex enough to require companies to employ in-house economists, but rarely do they pivot such activity around real-world political issues,” said Steve Bailey, a games analyst at market research firm IHS Technology.
“And so, it’ll be interesting to see just how players respond to these scenarios, and what ongoing consequences they’ll bring for how the game is played.”
Mr Jacobson says he thinks, whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations in the real world, there will definitely be “ramifications” for the football business.
In January, Tory peer Karren Brady voiced fears that Brexit could lead to some EU players in the UK having to leave.
However, former Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said in June that, while it was too early to know exactly how it will affect football in England, there was a possibility it could have a positive effect for English players looking for a chance to play in the Premier League.
Football Manager 2017 will be released on 4 November on PC, Mac and Linux with a mobile version for iOS and Android devices following on 17 November.
The Micro Bit mini-computer is to be sold across the world and enthusiasts are to be offered blueprints showing how to build their own versions.
The announcements were made by a new non-profit foundation that is taking over the educational project, formerly led by the BBC.
About one million of the devices were given away free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year.
The BBC says they encourage children, especially girls, to code
However, the delayed rollout of the machines to last year’s Year 7s (11-to-12-year-olds) caused problems for teachers who had less time than expected to prepare related classes.
Beyond the UK, Micro Bits are also in use in schools across the Netherlands and Iceland. But the foundation now intends to co-ordinate a wider rollout.
“Our goal is to go out and reach 100 million people with Micro Bit, and by reach I mean affect their lives with the technology,” said the foundation’s new chief executive Zach Shelby.
“That means [selling] tens of millions of devices… over the next five to 10 years.”
His organisation plans to ensure Micro Bits can be bought across Europe before the end of the year and is developing Norwegian and Dutch-language versions of its coding web tools to boost demand.
Next, in 2017, the foundation plans to target North America and China, which will coincide with an upgrade to the hardware.
“We will be putting more computing power in,” Mr Shelby said.
“We will be looking at new types of sensors.
“And also how to display Chinese and Japanese characters – it turns out you need a lot more LEDs than we have today.
“We also have work to do to reduce the price for developing countries, that’s something we’re very aware of.”
Micro Bits currently sell for about £13, excluding the batteries needed to power them.
That makes them several times more expensive than another barebones computer – the Raspberry Pi Zero.
But the foundation says they serve different audiences since the Micro Bit is designed for users with little or no coding knowledge when they begin.
What is a Micro Bit?
The Micro Bit is a palm-sized circuit board with an array of 25 LED lights – that can be programmed to show letters, numbers and other shapes – and a Bluetooth chip for wireless connectivity.
It also includes two built-in buttons, an accelerometer and compass, and rings to which further sensors can be attached.
Rather than enter code directly into the computer, owners instead write their scripts in a choice of four programming languages via web-based tools on a PC, or via an app on a tablet or smartphone.
Once written, the compiled scripts must be transferred to the Micro Bit, which then functions as a standalone device that can be used to flash messages and record movements among other tasks.
It can also be attached to other electronics to form the “brain” of a robot, a musical instrument or other kit.
In addition, a new feature makes peer-to-peer communications possible, meaning one Micro Bit can now transmit data to another, opening up further possibilities.
The foundation has also pledged to use some of its funds to sponsor Micro Bits for UK classrooms, so that more children get the chance to use them.
However, for the most part, schools wanting to use them will need to pay for the units themselves.
That is likely to require two or more pupils having to share a device in class rather than being given one of their own to take home, as had been the case.
Older children are also being courted with the release of the Micro Bit’s hardware design, so that they can build DIY models.
“It will look different because building it yourself is not easy,” said Mr Shelby.
“We think that will get older kids and young adults interested in experimenting with electronics.
“They can not just make a Micro Bit but modify one and make their own sensors.”
Although the BBC is relinquishing control of the project, it will retain a seat on the foundation’s board and the hardware will still be branded with its name.
To mark the handover, the broadcaster released details of a survey that questioned 147 girls before they received a Micro Bit, and then a different group of 208 girls afterwards.
It recorded that 23% of those without experience said they would “definitely” study computing in the future, but the figure grew to 39% for those who used a Micro Bit.
“A lot of projects in Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] are oftentimes aimed at boys – rocket cars for example,” commented Mr Shelby.
“With Micro Bits there have been lots of projects that are really interesting to girls – they love music-based projects and making their own drawing games with it, for example – so it seems non-intimidating.”
The Micro Bit’s original release was delayed from October 2015 to March 2016, meaning teachers got them late in the school year.
Some of those involved in the project believe it is too early to judge their impact fully as some recipients have only just started using them.
“If we could have allowed the teachers to have them a couple of weeks before the students, that would have had a bigger impact,” acknowledged Richard Needham, a consultant at Stem Learning – a firm that develops teaching resources.
“Some schools found it quite difficult to manage because they were asked to distribute these but it wasn’t clear who had ownership of them.
“The BBC said they belonged to children and not teachers, but I do know in some schools the teachers hung on to them for a little bit longer to decide how they were going to distribute them.
“I’ve heard of some rare examples where teachers only gave them out at the start of this school year, which was a disappointment, but understandable.”