An investigation revealed a lawnmower had got too close to one sensor, triggering a “massive spike” in data.
Aurora Watch said it was looking into ways to avoid the incident being repeated.
The bogus alert was issued during the afternoon of 23 August, after a magnetometer at the University of Lancaster recorded a surge in geomagnetic activity.
Aurora Watch is run by scientists at the university and takes readings from lots of magnetometers to work out when the aurora borealis will be visible across Britain.
The project draws on magnetometers in Lancaster, Aberdeen, the Faroe Islands and further field.
The alert was withdrawn four hours after being released as it emerged only one sensor had recorded the spike in activity.
A later update posted to the Aurora Watch webpage said an investigation had revealed that a groundskeeper using a “sit-on mower” to trim grass had been driving too close to the sensor, prompting the spike.
“We’ll work with the facilities team to try and avoid an incident such as this occurring in the future,” said the scientists.
They explained any metal placed on the instrument or machinery operating nearby could trick it into recording more activity than was actually present.
Readings from the Lancaster sensor were not typically used to trigger alerts, they said, but problems with the main sensor in Aberdeen on 23 August meant it had become the lead monitor.
They found 704 of those papers contained gene name errors created by Excel.
Ewan Birney, director of the European Bioinformatics Institute, does not blame Excel and told the BBC: “What frustrates me is researchers are relying on Excel spreadsheets for clinical trials.”
The Excel gene renaming issue has been known among the scientific community for more than a decade, Birney added.
He recommended that the program should only be considered for “lightweight scientific analysis”.
One of the paper’s three researchers, Assam El-Osta, said the errors were found specifically on the supplemental data sheets of academic studies.
He told the BBC that supplemental pages contained “important supporting data, rich with information,” and added that resolving these errors was “time-consuming”.
Excel’s automatic renaming of certain genes was first cited by the scientific community back in 2004, the Baker IDI study claims. Since then the problem has “increased at an annual rate of 15%” over the past five years.
It has been designed by Facebook product manager Michael Sayman, who is 19 years old.
In a Facebook post he wrote that the app was based around the original social network’s early days.
“Back in 2004, Facebook was all about ‘who I am’. I could post my relationship status. I could share what my favourite music was. And it was all about expressing myself,” he said.
“Today as Facebook has grown into so much more, we see the opportunity to explore that concept of ‘who I am’ once again, but for Generation Z in 2016.”
Dr Bernie Hogan from the Oxford Internet Institute told the BBC the app’s lack of privacy settings could prove unpopular.
“The lack of privacy settings on this app in its current state is indicative of Facebook ideology – which is to stay open and connected as much as possible,” he said.
“From their point of view that’s a great idea but sometimes being so open can get in the way of getting connected. They already know this as people become reluctant to share things online if they have to share them with everyone.
“It seems yet again that they are trying to push the boundaries of what we think is appropriate to share online and then walking back when they face public criticism.”
The Ashley Madison dating site had “inadequate” security systems and used fake icons to make people think it was safe, reveals a report.
The Toronto-based firm’s security systems were investigated by privacy watchdogs in Canada and Australia.
The attack on Ashley Madison in July 2015 took data on millions of users.
Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison, has already said it will abide by the report’s findings to improve the way it handles data.
Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner (COPC) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner started an investigation into how Avid Life Media handled customer data soon after the attack.
The report released this week revealed that Avid Life violated privacy laws in both countries thanks to the lax way it oversaw data that users surrendered to it when they signed up.
“Privacy breaches are a core risk for any organisation with a business model based on the collection and use of personal information,” said Daniel Therrien, Canada’s privacy commissioner, in a statement.
He said that although the site billed itself as “100% discreet” it did not do enough to protect personal data because well-known security safeguards were “insufficient or absent”.
“Handling huge amounts of this kind of personal information without a comprehensive information security plan is unacceptable,” added Mr Therrien.
The failings found in the report included system passwords being held in plain text on easy-to-access internal servers and in emails and text files that were regularly passed around within the company. Avid also did little to properly authenticate who was accessing its systems remotely, said the report.
“Ashley Madison’s shortcomings were generally avoidable through relatively straightforward measures,” said Marc Dautlich, an information law expert at Pinsent Masons. “And the cost of the consequences which it has now incurred are far greater than the cost of prevention would have been.”
Whistle-blowing site Wikileaks has been criticised for not doing enough to screen sensitive information found in documents released via the site.
An investigation by the Associated Press has found the names and addresses of teenage rape victims, people who have suffered sexual abuse, and information about individuals suffering mental illness in documents on Wikileaks.
Now some are questioning whether the site should be more careful with the information it publishes.
What is Wikileaks?
The website was set up in 2006 by Julian Assange to help whistle-blowers publish secret information, classified documents as well as stolen and leaked data. In early interviews, Mr Assange said it was intended to be a “giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents”.
It has now published more than 10 million documents including:
US military logs and field reports from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
US State Department diplomatic cables
Official messages sent between the Saudi government and its embassies
Millions of emails from intelligence firm Stratfor
Files and messages from the Democratic National Committee
What has AP found?
The news organisation combed through the site and found many instances where sensitive personal information was easily viewable in documents and files.
In the worst cases the information revealed could put lives at risk or lead to people being jailed or harassed, it said.
It is not the only risk involved with information on the site. Security researcher Vesselin Bontchev found more than 3,000 links to files that contained malware. The links were in a dump of emails from Turkey’s ruling political party, the AKP.
However, it has taken some action to make it harder to fall victim to malware in the AKP files – though the dangerous links have not been completely removed.
Is Wikileaks the only source for these files?
Not always. Sometimes the original whistle-blower publishes the files themselves in other places.
In some cases more information is released via that route than is available via Wikileaks. However, in most cases the majority of files are accessible via Wikileaks, and its decision to publish information can mean they get more publicity.
Is harm being done?
Human rights groups have asked Wikileaks many times to do more to censor information found in documents. They fear reprisals against aid workers, activists and civilians named in the leaked data.
In addition, AP said it had evidence that fraudsters had used credit card numbers and other personal details revealed in some documents. Other leaks have lead to people losing their jobs, or have ended relationships.
The US government has condemned Wikileaks several times, saying its work has harmed diplomatic relations and put the lives of staff in sensitive positions at risk.
Direct evidence of harm has been hard to find, but in 2010 Julian Assange told the Guardian that Wikileaks’ 2007 exposure of widespread corruption in Kenya influenced violence during national elections that lead to 1,300 deaths. He justified the release of the information saying Kenyans had a right to know the information.
Has it done any good?
“Yes,” says Prof Christian Christensen, from the University of Stockholm who studies media and communication. “In the long run they have done a lot of good.”
The early leaks it oversaw gave insights into corporate and official abuse on a scale never seen before, he said, adding that it also made it much easier for whistle-blowers and activists to get information into the public domain.
He said the organisation was now operating in a very different world than it did a decade ago when it was set up. To begin with, he said, there was much more competition for Wikileaks.
Publishing quickly and doing less to curate documents was one way for Wikileaks to remain relevant, he said.
However, he added, there had been a shift in the information it released. Now, the information was less about clear cases of harm or the abuse of power, and more to do with subjects that were much less black and white.
There was a danger, he said, that Wikileaks was now part of the story rather than just the route through which information is released.
“When that happens it really starts to muddy the waters,” he said.
Why doesn’t it censor documents?
In the early days of Wikileaks, it took more care – thanks to working with newspapers that did the job of removing sensitive information from documents about the Afghan and Iraq wars.
Spokesman Julian Assange has often said that the sheer amount of documents Wikileaks handles makes it all but impossible to censor or edit them if they are to be released in a timely fashion.
In some cases it has no way to contact whoever handed over documents, making it difficult to find out what information might prove damaging.
The lack of oversight has led to criticism about the release of almost 300,000 emails from Turkey’s AKP, with some saying they contained more trivia than treasure.
Wikileaks practices what it calls “radical transparency”, said Prof Christensen, which leads it to believe that exposing corruption, malfeasance and abuse of power trumps the damage it might do to individuals.
Many other whistle-blowing sites take greater care with documents they are passed to ensure that no more information than necessary is released.
Is it connected to Wikipedia?
No. The “wiki” part of the name simply refers to its aim of letting people collaborate to edit documents and releases. The original idea was for Wikileaks to build up a large group of helpers that would censor and prepare information before publication. This changed in 2010 when the organisation became more centralised.
The change in structure led to a split that saw some of its original co-founders leave and others ended their association with it.
Ironically, for an organisation that preaches “radical transparency” it has never revealed how many people work for it, or who oversees the release of information.
Both the police and the software’s developer – the Illinois Institute of Technology – co-operated with Rand’s evaluation.
The so-called “predictive policing” initiative was based on the idea that potential victims of gun crime could be identified by building a social network model.
Specifically, the software calculated a person’s risk factor on the basis of two variables:
how many times they had been arrested with others who had later themselves become gun crime victims
the number of relationships they had to intermediaries who had been arrested with people who had become homicide victims
This resulted in a total of 426 people being identified as “high risk” in March 2013. They were placed on a register called the Strategic Subjects List (SSL).
The researchers said their analysis of the gun crime that followed indicated that being on the list made no difference to people’s chances of being shot or killed. Neither was there any impact on overall homicide levels, they added.
But they said the SSL’s members became more likely to be arrested for the shootings of others.
“The effect size was rather large… 2.88 times more likely than their matched counterparts,” the study said.
The report’s authors said officers had received “no practical direction” about what to do with the list, and, in some cases, had decided to use it as a way to identify possible subjects.
The danger, they warned, was that use of the list could lead to civil rights and privacy abuses. This might ultimately backfire, they said, if people felt they were being unfairly treated, although they added they had seen no evidence of this themselves.
The force said it now used a more elaborate model that takes account of additional factors, such as how many times an individual has recently been arrested for violent offences.
And it said it now used the technique to arrange visits to members of the list, their families and friends to explain what preventative steps they could take.
Even so, one privacy rights group said the affair served as a warning.
“Using predictive policing might seem like an ingenious solution to fighting crime, but predictions from data algorithms can often draw inaccurate conclusions,” Renate Samson, chief executive of Big Brother Watch, told the BBC,
“The police must exercise caution when using data to target people and be sure that they adhere to the rule of innocent until proven guilty.”
A set-top box offering video-on-demand services has been unveiled by the state broadcaster KCTV in North Korea, according to local reports.
The box, called Manbang, has been dubbed the country’s version of Netflix in some reports.
It connects to the state-controlled intranet and is said to enable viewers to search for and replay documentaries and watch five TV channels.
KCTV said consumer demand for the device was high.
However experts say that most North Koreans have no connectivity.
“If a viewer wants to watch, for instance, an animal movie and sends a request to the equipment, it will show the relevant video to the viewer…this is two-way communications,” said Kim Jong Min, head of the centre in charge of providing information and technology, according to NK News.
The news site also reports that the on-demand content includes English and Russian language learning material.
In May security researcher Doug Madory discovered a social network – resembling a crude clone of Facebook – on a North Korean internet address.
It was not online for very long, especially once people started setting up spoof profiles, including one of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
“I don’t believe it was intended to be accessible from outside North Korea,” Mr Madory told the BBC.
A Windows 10 update has stopped many popular webcams from working.
The update, released earlier this month, stops many cameras being used for Skype or to broadcast and stream footage.
The cause seems to be a change in the way Windows 10 handles video so it can be used by more than one program at a time.
Microsoft said it was working on a fix but has not given any date for when the patch will be available.
Soon after Windows Update 1607 was distributed in early August, many people started reporting webcam problems to Microsoft via its support site. The trouble affected both webcams connected via USB cables or on the same network and meant either that footage could not be streamed, or that images froze after a while.
The problems even affected webcams working with Skype and Lync – both companies owned by Microsoft.
Comments on the support thread suggest millions of people have been inconvenienced by the bug. Some companies said customers who used webcams for internet banking had complained because they could no longer verify transactions.
Analysis put the blame on changes to the video encoding systems with which Windows 10 works. The update ends support for two widely used encoding systems so it became possible for more than one application to use video as it is being shot. Prior to the update Windows 10 only allowed one application access to a stream.
A Microsoft camera engineer who responded to complaints on the support thread said the company had done “a poor job” of letting people know about the change.
“We dropped the ball on that front, so I’d like to offer my apologies to you all,” he said.
He added that Microsoft was working on a way to fix the problem and get webcams working again. The fix is likely to be released in September.
Microsoft has yet to officially comment on the problem.
Changes to the way Microsoft handles updates also seem to have made the problem harder to fix. Prior to update 1607, Windows 10 users could roll-back to a previous version within 30 days of it being installed. The update cut that to 10 days giving people little chance to switch back to the earlier version of Windows 10 under which their webcams worked.
A spyware company faces legal action after a US court ruled that its software was used unlawfully to intercept an unwitting man’s messages.
Javier Luis started an online friendship with Catherine Zang in 2009.
Her husband used WebWatcher spyware to track the pair’s private emails and online chats over several months, as evidence for divorce proceedings.
The US appeal court has now ruled 2-1 that Mr Luis can sue the software firm Awareness Technologies.
Mr Luis claims the software, which logged web history, searches, chat logs and email threads, illegally intercepted his communications with Ms Zang.
Legal action by Mr Luis against Mr Zang and other unnamed parties has been settled.
But Mr Luis pursued his case against Awareness after a district court initially dismissed his claims against the company.
A caring relationship
While the two never met in person, Mr Luis said he developed “a caring relationship” with Ms Zang.
Mr Zang grew suspicious that his wife was conversing with other men, and installed the WebWatcher software on a shared computer to intercept her messages in real time.
He read copies of the messages on the WebWatcher servers, and used the information to divorce Ms Zang on terms favourable to him in 2010.
WebWatcher is marketed as parental monitoring software for ensuring children are using technology appropriately.
Awareness Technologies denied Mr Luis’ assertions that it intercepted the communications – illegal under the US Wiretap Act – arguing it merely stored them as data.
It claimed that the term intercept applied only to situations in which a device captures a communication “either before [it] reaches the intended recipient or contemporaneous with the transmission not after it reaches the destination where it is placed in electronic storage.”
The court of appeals disagreed. It concluded that Mr Luis “has indeed alleged enough facts to reasonably infer that Awareness intercepted his communications”.
Awareness has been contacted for comment.
The case has now been sent back to the lower court for it to continue.